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Coping with Dry Eyes: Patient Perspectives

A qualitative study conducted in Singapore and published in the journal BMC Ophthalmology explored the coping strategies of patients with dry eyes.

Chronic dry eyes is a non-curable medical condition characterized by irregularities of the ocular surface.

It is a common condition that is more likely to affect women who are experiencing hormonal changes, as well as people with autoimmune diseases.

Smokers and individuals who spend a disproportionate amount of time reading, watching TV, or working on a computer are also prone to dry eyes.

Self-management strategies like eyelid hygiene and the application of ointments and gels can relieve the symptoms of dry eyes. Modifying the environment by increasing the humidity may also improve symptoms, and some studies have shown that acupuncture can be used to treat the condition.

Few studies have been conducted to understand self-management strategies from the perspective of Asian patients who suffer from dry eyes.

Researchers in Singapore conducted a qualitative study to better understand how individuals cope with the condition.

They conducted six focus group sessions with four to six English-speaking patients in each group. Thirty-eight patients between the ages of 26 and 65 years were recruited from the Singapore National Eye Center.

Thirty of the patients were female and most were of Chinese ethnicity; the socioeconomic backgrounds varied considerably across the groups. The results were recently published in the journal BMC Ophthalmology.

What Strategies Help with Dry Eyes?

The patients identified a wide variety of strategies that they used to cope with dry eyes, including conventional physician-prescribed treatments.

Tear substitute and retention strategies, including the use of ointments and gels, were the most commonly prescribed treatments. Some patients also reported that their physicians recommended eyelid cleaning and warming and dietary supplements to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes.

The patients also shared eyelid and environmental strategies and other holistic measures that they used to cope with dry eyes.

Eyelid strategies included eye care habits like wearing sunglasses and changing contact lens regimens, while environmental strategies centered on increasing humidity and avoiding air conditioning.

The patients further discussed other holistic measures that helped them cope with dry eyes.

These measures included traditional Chinese medicine (e.g., acupuncture and herbs), lifestyle modification (e.g., drinking more water and avoiding the sun), adjustment of mental and psychological attitude (e.g., stress management), and sharing and communication with medical professionals and others with dry eyes.

The study was limited by the female-dominated small sample size, although the risk of dry eyes is greater among women.

Further, the participants were recruited from a single center, and those who declined to participate may have held unique perspectives that the researchers were unable to capture. Some participants may have also shared more than others.

Overall, the results revealed that most patients relied on a combination of strategies to self-manage their dry eyes. In particular, they expressed enthusiasm for holistic, non-traditional approaches to management.

Written by Suzanne M. Robertson, Ph.D

Reference: Yeo, Sharon, and Louis Tong. “Coping with dry eyes: a qualitative approach.” BMC Ophthalmology 18, no. 1 (2018): 8.

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