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Subspecialties Cornea / Ocular Surface

The Burden of Dry Eye Disease

sponsored by Santen Pharmaceuticals

Dry eye disease (DED) is burdensome for both doctor and patient for three main reasons: high prevalence, many causes, and – especially in the case of severe DED – little in the way of effective treatment options. Up to 100 million people globally are thought to be affected by DED to some extent, and for many reasons, it has been both underdiagnosed and undertreated. Milder forms are rarely vision-threatening, and a lot of people with DED will go to their pharmacist, buy an over-the-counter lubricant, self-treat and make do. It can therefore take years before these people navigate through the path of pharmacist, general practitioner, optometrist, general ophthalmologist, until finally getting to see a cornea specialist. Furthermore, some patients show the signs, but not the symptoms of DED, further delaying their presentation to an ophthalmology clinic.

Nevertheless, a substantial volume of patients still present to ophthalmology clinics with DED. Indeed, it has been estimated that up to 60 percent of patients under the care of an ophthalmologist have some form of DED. Such patients are present in every subspecialty and in every clinic – even posterior segment specialists will talk of patients with fluctuating vision that leads to a DED diagnosis. Given that eye clinics are already busy enough dealing with aging baby-boomers with age-related ocular disorders, this is far from ideal.

It’s also far from ideal if you’re a patient with DED. Symptoms include red, tired, irritated, itchy eyes, gritty or burning sensations, light sensitivity, fluctuating vision. Everyday tasks like driving a car, working with a PC, or even being in a room with a fan heater can all be painful undertakings.

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