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The “lifestyle epidemic” of dry eye disease

The personal impact of living with dry eye disease was explored at an event organised by Théa Pharmaceuticals

person with sore eyes
Getty/dowell

We are all familiar with the unpleasant experience of tearing up after chopping onions.

Optometrist and dry eye specialist, Sarah Farrant, drew on this common experience at an event organised by Théa Pharmaceuticals (The Ned, London, 22 June).

“Dry eye can feel like that all the time,” she said.

“Imagine how that must feel – that constant sensation of burning,” Farrant added.

People with dry eye disease have compared the daily impact of the condition to living with angina, Farrant noted.

She highlighted the rewarding nature of her role helping patients with dry eye disease.

“You see a patient in this awful state and then you take them on a journey to where they are empowered to manage their condition,” she said.

Farrant noted that when she first started working in the field, she would not see patients younger than 40 in her clinics.

Now she sees patients in younger age groups, with a growing number of children presenting for treatment.

Highlighting that one in three Brits have not had their eyes checked within the past two years, Farrant emphasised the importance of early intervention.

“It’s drilled into us as children to have our teeth checked but you rarely see that same public health message around eye care,” she observed.

Locum optometrist and AOP councillor Francesca Marchetti highlighted that one in four people in the UK suffer from dry eye disease – although some people may not register the symptoms.

“If it’s very mild or if they have had it for a long time people are not aware of it,” she shared.

She noticed that following lockdown many people reported that their eyesight had worsened – with this often caused by a deterioration in dry eye rather than the need for a different prescription.

“More and more people have got dry eye disease. It is known as a lifestyle epidemic,” she said.

Margaret, who has experienced symptoms of dry eye disease for 12 years, told the audience that as well as using eye drops, she had been prescribed courses of steroids and antibiotics when her condition was particularly severe.

As well as the physical symptoms, Margaret described the mental challenges of living with dry eye disease.

“There’s not a day that goes by where you are not dealing with it,” she said.

“It is a very debilitating condition,” Margaret emphasised.

She said that experience of living with dry eye disease had made her aware of the key role that optometrists play.

“You take your eyes for granted until something happens. You don’t appreciate what they mean to you,” she said.