Survey finds almost 70% with dry eye don’t see ECP

August 14, 2012

By Marc R. Bloomenstein, O.D.

The results of an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on Consumer Attitudes Related to Dry Eye should be an eye opener to optometrists who see asymptomatic healthy adults. This study, sponsored by Allergan, Inc., exposed the fact that patients have a lot more to say about their dry eye than eye care practitioners may realize.

Although, practitioners have known for years that the prevalence of dry eye symptoms is highest in females and increases with age, the study indicates that males are also susceptible. Moreover, some individuals, male and female, have been experiencing symptoms for more than 10 years. Sadly, this means that practitioners have been status-quo in their treatment regimen for a chronic medical condition that causes almost 42 percent of female patients to state that it blurs their vision and 43 percent to state that it made reading more challenging.

The most obvious message this survey highlights is that practitioners are not doing enough to help patients who have dry eye. Almost 50 percent of all adults are experiencing dry eye symptoms daily, and an equal number of respondents are using over-the-counter (OTC) eyedrops to manage these symptoms without success. The implication is that eye care professionals feel they are managing their patients effectively with a recommendation of OTC eyedrops. Fortunately, 50 percent of the respondents said their decision to use OTC drops was a consequence of their visit with the eye care professional. On the surface this may seem like a positive, yet when 63 percent of those same patients, using drops, decry that OTC drops are only somewhat or not at all successful in managing their dry eye symptoms, practitioners really should be asking themselves if they are influencing patients in the most efficacious manner.

The use of OTC tears is the first line defense for a chronic condition that can affect the quality of our patients’ lives.

However, practitioners generally realize most patients are already using an OTC drop to alleviate symptoms when they come in for an appointment. Moreover, most are using drops that may be exacerbating the dryness by also inducing a whitening effect.

Optometrists need to present solutions to our patients at every opportunity. As approximately 70 percent of all U.S. adults who experience one or more dry eye symptom(s) are not seeking our services, the onus to provide a treatment for dry eye should be a priority at every visit.

A vast majority of patients seek eye care services because the have already made some assumptions as to what is ailing their vision. Because these same patients are also using OTC eyedrops to attempt relief, eye care practitioners should look to provide better solutions. This author’s treatment regimen is to pick up where patients have already started. A practitioner should not be willing to substitute one OTC product for another. Ensuring that patients do not have concomitant factors that are contributing to the dry eye, such as blepharitis, can enable a reduction in symptoms. The use of punctal plugs, introducing steroids, or prescribing Cyclosporine A may also be necessary, and these can only be provided by the practitioner.

This survey is effectively a memorandum from patients stating that eye care practitioners need to stop being so myopic when it comes to treating dry eye. Patients need and demand better treatment regimens.

Consumer attitudes about dry eye

  • Nearly half of all U.S. adults (48 percent) experience one or more dry eye symptom regularly
  • Half of all women (52 percent) experience one or more dry eye symptom regularly; 43 percent of men experience one or more dry eye symptom regularly
  • Nearly one in five U.S. adults (19 percent) report using OTC eyedrops to treat symptoms at least five times per week
  • A majority of U.S. adults who use OTC eyedrops to manage their dry eye symptoms (63 percent) said the OTC drops are only somewhat or not at all successful in managing their dry eye symptoms
  • Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults who experience one or more dry eye symptom have not visited an eye care professional to treat symptoms
  • Approximately two in five (41 percent) who visited an eye care professional to treat their dry eye symptoms said they visited more than once before finding relief (19 percent) or that they still have not found relief (22 percent)

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