Residents of American
cities with high levels of air pollution are much more likely to develop dry
eye syndrome than people who live in cities with cleaner air, a new study
People living in and around
cities such as Chicago and New York City were three to four times more likely
to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome than those in urban areas with lower
levels of air pollution.
Dry eye syndrome – a
deficiency in tear production – can severely hamper someone's quality of life
and productivity. The condition affects up to 4 million Americans aged 50 and
older. Its symptoms include excessive tearing, discomfort wearing contact
lenses, and stinging and burning in the eyes.
In this new study,
researchers analysed the medical records of more than 600 000 US veterans who
were treated for dry eye syndrome in nearly 400 VA eye clinics between July
2006 and July 2011. The records were compared to air-pollution data collected
during the same time.
While the study wasn't
designed to prove cause-and-effect, the researchers said most major cities had
high levels of air pollution and high rates of dry eye syndrome – 17% to 21%.
Those cities included Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York City.
The researchers also found
that the risk of dry eye syndrome was 13% higher in cities at high altitudes.
The findings suggest that
doctors need to be aware of the link between environmental conditions and dry
eye, the researchers said. They recommended that doctors get an environmental
history when assessing patients with the condition.
people living in arid and polluted cities would readily attest to the
irritating effect air pollution has on dry eye," study author Dr Anat
Galor, an assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer
Eye Institute in Miami, said in a news release from the American Academy of
"Our research suggests
that simple actions, such as maintaining the appropriate humidity indoors and
using a high-quality air filter, should be considered as part of the overall
management of patients suffering from dry eye syndrome," Galor said.
The study was presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual meeting in New
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