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Risk Factors for Dry Eye Found Among Elderly

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March 8, 2004 -- Elderly people with allergies or diabetes may face a higher risk of developing dry eye syndrome due to the medications they use, a new study reports.

Researchers say dry eye syndrome is a common source of discomfort among the elderly and can seriously affect quality of life. But little is known about what risk factors are associated with the condition, which causes symptoms including eye irritation, itching, or burning and blurred vision.

Although increasing age is the biggest risk factor for dry eye syndrome, the study suggests that people with allergies or diabetes who use antihistamines or diuretics or those with poor overall health may face the greatest risk of developing dry eye syndrome.

In contrast, the risk of dry eye syndrome is lower in people who use ACE inhibitors (drugs commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure or kidney problems in people with diabetes) or drink alcohol.

Dry Eye Associated With Drug Use

In the study, published in the March issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, researchers followed 2,414 men and women aged 43-84 for five years and conducted regular eye and health exams.

During the follow-up period, dry eye developed in 322 (13%) of the participants. The risk was significantly associated increasing age.

After adjusting for age, researchers found the incidence of dry eye syndrome was higher among those with a history of allergies or diabetes who used antihistamines or diuretics and those with poorer overall health.

The incidence of dry eye syndrome was lower in people who took ACE inhibitors or who drank alcohol at any level.

Researchers say the link between ACE inhibitors and decreased risk of dry eye syndrome deserves further research.

"Perhaps of equal significance are the relationships that were not found," write researcher Scot E. Moss, of the University of Wisconsin, and colleagues. "Factors such as arthritis and thyroid disease, which are generally regarded as being associated with dry eye and have been confirmed by prevalence studies, were not found to predict incidence."

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