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Dry Eye Syndrome Plagues Many Women

Millions of older Americans suffer from debilitating condition

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

FRIDAY, Aug. 22, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Nearly 3.2 million American women age 50 and older suffer from painful and debilitating dry eye syndrome.

That's what scientists at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital found.

The study, the largest of its kind, shows dry eye in women is an important health issue that often goes undiagnosed. The incidence of dry eye syndrome, along with its economic impact, is likely to increase as the American population ages.

The study appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

"These findings shine a light on this issue and will help make the public and the health-care community more aware of dry eye syndrome as an important health concern for women. It also points to the need for diagnosis and treatment to limit the impact on the individual's quality of life and society," senior author Debra Schaumberg says in a news release.

It's estimated that more than 1 million American men age 50 and older have the disease.

Dry eye syndrome is characterized by a decline in the quality or quantity of tears that normally bathe the eye to keep it moist and functioning well. The disease causes such symptoms as pain, irritation, dryness and a sandy or gritty sensation.

If left untreated, severe dry eye syndrome may lead to scarring or ulceration of the cornea and loss of vision. Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can be so constant and severe that it can make driving, reading, working and other normal daily activities difficult or impossible.

Artificial tears in the form of eye drops offer some relief, along with other forms of treatment. But there is no cure for dry eye syndrome.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about dry eye syndrome.

SOURCE: Schepens Eye Research Institute, news release, August 2003
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