Dry eye disease

Dry eye disease (DED) is a common condition that can result in ocular irritation and blurred vision. Studies have associated DED with depression and anxiety, and researchers investigated this further to reinforce these results and explore possible underlying causes.


Dry eye disease (DED) is commonly seen in ophthalmology clinics. It is a disease of the tears and ocular surface where either not enough tears or poor quality tears are produced that result in inadequate lubrication for the eyes. Symptoms of DED include redness, stinging, eye pain, and blurred vision. It can be caused by aging, certain medications, and certain medical conditions.

In past epidemiological studies, researchers have found depression and anxiety to be linked to DED. They have searched for explanations by examining the prevalence of mental disorders in DED without definitive results. DED varies significantly with sex, age, lifestyle, and geography. In a new study, researchers conducted a systematic review to clarify DED’s relationship with depression and anxiety.

Wan, Chen, and Young investigated the association of DED with depression and anxiety in this study, published in the Nature – Eye journal. The group looked at data from previous studies where patients had DED, depression or anxiety, there was a healthy control group and there was sufficient information to determine whether patients were suffering from DED, depression, and anxiety. Information extracted included age, sex, cause of DED, severity of depression or anxiety and the method of assessing depression or anxiety.

The study showed that there was an association of depression and anxiety with DED. Patients who had DED were three times more likely to have depression or anxiety. This association was present regardless of race and cause of DED. Researchers believe reductions in quality of life from DED, such as sleeping problems and eye irritation in day to day activities, could be causing the increase in depression and anxiety prevalence. Additionally, medications used to treat depression and anxiety may contribute to DED.

Further research should be done in determining the directionality and mechanisms behind the association of depression and anxiety with DED. Ophthalmologists should be aware of this connection and be observant of potential signs of mental illness with their DED patients, particularly those severely affected by the condition.


Written By: Wesley Tin, BMSc

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