TUESDAY, Nov. 19, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- 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 shows.
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
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 analyzed the medical records of
more than 600,000 U.S. 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 percent to 21 percent.
Those cities included Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York
The researchers also found that the risk of dry eye syndrome was
13 percent 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.
"Undoubtedly, many 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 Ophthalmology.
"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 Saturday at the American Academy of
Ophthalmology's annual meeting in New Orleans. Data and conclusions
presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about