Findings Suggest Need to Rethink Dry Eye Treatment Modalities

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine report the discovery of a connection between “dry eye” and chronic pain and mental health. Their study, “Neuropathic Ocular Pain due to Dry Eye is Associated with Multiple Comorbid Chronic Pain Syndromes,” involved 154 patients from the Miami Veterans Affairs Hospital and was published recently in Journal of Pain. The American Eye Institute estimates that dry eye impacts about 3 million Americans every year. When the eyes do not produce an adequate supply of tears or the tears evaporate too quickly from the surface of the cornea, patients develop an “itchy” or painful sensation. Lead author Anat Galor, MD, MSPH, commented, “Our study indicates that some patients with dry eye have corneal somatosensory pathway dysfunction and would be better described as having neuropathic ocular pain.”

Study coauthor Roy Levitt, MD, added, “Dry eye patients in our study reported higher levels of ocular and nonocular pain associated with multiple chronic pain syndromes, and had lower scores on depression and quality-of-life indices consistent with a central sensitivity disorder. We also suspect that neuropathic ocular pain may share causal genetic factors with other overlapping chronic pain conditions.” The authors assert that their findings imply a need for a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and management of dry-eye patients, extending beyond the traditional symptomatic treatment with artificial tears or topical medications.

A press release from the Miller School of Medicine may be read here.

The journal article may be read here.

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