From Our 2004 Archives

Dry Eye Danger Rises with Age

Summary: Residents of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin who were 43 years oldor more and did not have dry eyewerefollowedfor 5 years for the development of dry eye.Theincidence of this condition was found to be"substantial" -- over 13% of the population developed dry eye over the period of 5 years.

The risk of dry eye rose with age.Certain drugs such as diuretics and antihistamines were found to be associated with a greater risk of dry eye, whereas the use of ACE inhibitors was associated with a lower risk of dry eye.

Comment: Dry eye syndrome is due to a declinein the quality or quantity of tears. There isconstant pain from eye irritation and there isa sandy or gritty sensation. Dry eye can lead to scarring or ulceration of the cornea and loss of vision. It is therefore important to treat dry eye.

Dry eye is treated with artificial tears and ointments. Dry eyedue tothe infection and inflammation of oil glands in the eyelids (meibomitis) can be treated with warm compresses and antibiotics such as tetracycline. Some forms of dry eye benefit from the placement of tiny plugs in the ducts that drain tears from the eye. For severe forms of dry eye, special goggles called moisture-chamber spectacles can be worn.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

For more information, see:

Dry Eye Problems

Drugs Affecting the Risk of Dry Eye

Dry Eye Common in Older People

FRIDAY, March 26 (HealthDayNews) -- There are few risk factors for dry eye, but the condition develops fairly often in older people, says a study in the March issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Dry eye, a common source of discomfort for older people, can affect quality of life and has been associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers studied 2,414 people over the age of 43 who did not report any dry eye symptoms when they were examined between 1993 and 1995. During these examinations, information was collected about the study subjects' dry eye disease risk factors, medications, cardiovascular disease risk factors, medical history and lifestyle.

The study subjects were re-examined between 1998 and 2000, and it was found that 322 (13.3 percent) of the 2,414 had developed dry eye. The incidence of dry eye was significantly associated with age.

Incidence of dry eye was greater in people with a history of allergy or diabetes who used antihistamines or diuretics and in people with poorer self-rated health. Incidence of dry eye was lower in people taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure) and in those who drank alcohol.

The study also identified several factors that were not associated with dry eye. These included: gender, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body mass index, arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, smoking, caffeine use, vitamins, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

--Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, March 2004

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