Women Over 50: Dry Eyes in The House

Disorder More Common in Women Age 75 and Older

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 12, 2003 -- It's an all-too-common problem: Many women over age 50 have dry eyes; so dry that it's a true disorder.

A study appearing in the American Journal of Ophthalmology shows that dry eye syndrome is quite common across the U.S.

The film of tears in the eyes is fundamental to keep the eye surface free of irritation, writes lead researcher Debra A. Schaumberg, ScD, MPH, preventive medicine specialist with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include eye discomfort, which can affect vision clarity and the ability to work, read, use a computer or bank machine, or drive at night. "Dry eye symptoms can be debilitating and affect psychologic health and overall sense of well-being," she adds.

Her survey of nearly 37,000 women -- ranging from 49 to 89 years old -- found that:

  • 5% had a clinical diagnosis of dry eye syndrome.
  • 29% sometimes had dry eyes.
  • 6% of women under age 50 complained of dry eyes compared with 10% of women over age 75.

"We found [dry eye syndrome] to be a relatively common condition among a large group of middle-aged and older U.S. women," writes Schaumberg. Few other studies have tried to assess the magnitude of this exasperating problem of dry eyes, she adds.

Dry eye syndrome affects an estimated 3.2 million women middle-aged and older, she says. She urges further research to better understand dry eye syndrome and its impact.

If your eyes feel constantly dry, you should have them evaluated by an eye doctor, says ophthalmologist Bill Lloyd, MD. Many different conditions can cause symptoms that feel like dry eyes, and many are highly treatable, he adds.

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SOURCES: American Journal of Ophthalmology, September 2003. WebMD Answers to Questions: "The Doctors Is In," Bill Lloyd, MD.
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