6 Things Your Patients Should Know About Dry Eye Disease

Woman applying eye-drops into her eye
Dry eye disease affects nearly 7% of adults in the United States. Despite this, patients may not know many causes, symptoms, risk factors, and preventative measures for the disease. What should you be telling your patients about dry eye disease?

With an estimated 16.4 million cases nationwide, dry eye disease (DED) affects approximately 6.8% of U.S. adults.1 Given its prevalence, it’s important your patients understand the basics about the condition. Here are 6 things you may want to share with them.

1. Decreased tear production is a frequent cause of dry eye disease

There are several reasons why a person may produce too few tears2:

  • Aging
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, and scleroderma
  • Medications (e.g., certain antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants)
  • Nerve damage
  • Contact lens use, which may cause the corneal nerves to desensitize

2.  Increased tear evaporation is another common cause

The meibomian glands (oil glands along the edge of the eyelids which create oil that helps generate tears) may clog. As a result, tear evaporation can occur2.

3. Symptoms of dry eye disease vary

The typical symptoms of dry eye disease include2:

  • Stinging or burning
  • A scratchy sensation, as if something is lodged in the eye
  • Redness in the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Overly watery eyes (the body’s response to dry eyes)
  • Eye fatigue

4. Diet can affect the likelihood of developing dry eye disease

Foods high in vitamin A, such as carrots, broccoli, beef liver, mango, and dried apricots, can help stave off dry eye disease. Avoiding foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, oysters, and walnuts) may also be beneficial.2

5. Dry eye disease is more common in women and older age groups

Research published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology suggests that women (8.8%) are twice as likely as men (4.5%) to be diagnosed with dry eye disease. The chances of developing the condition increase with age: just 2.7% of those aged 18-34 years are estimated to have DED compared to nearly 1 in 5 people aged 75 and older.1

6. Several simple measures can reduce your patients’ likelihood of dry eye disease

There are several steps your patients can follow, including 2:

  • Prevent air from blowing directly in the eyes (e.g., fans, air conditioners, hair dryers)
  • Utilize a humidifier to add moisture indoors
  • Wear protective eyewear
  • Take breaks during reading, work, and other tasks that require focus for long durations of time
  • Avoid smoking or being around smokers
  • Use eye drops to keep the eyes lubricated
  • Position the computer screen below eye level to ensure the eyes don’t open quite as wide


1. Farrand KF, Fridman M, Stillman IO, Schaumberg DA. Prevalence of diagnosed dry eye disease in the United States among adults aged 18 years and older. Am J Ophthalmol. 2017;182:90-98. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2017.06.033.

2. Dry eyes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371863. Published September 24, 2020. Accessed August 2, 2021.