Background: Survey studies are of limited utility in estimating the prevalence of treated dry eye. The use of claims data, which include only individuals who have a diagnosis of the disorder, provides a better estimation of the clinical significance of dry eye symptoms and appraisal of community needs.
Objective: The purpose of this paper is to estimate the prevalence of treated dry eye disease using a nonsurvey methodology.
Methods: Patients with dry eye diagnoses or who underwent punctal occlusion procedures were identified from PharMetrics' Integrated Outcomes database of medical claims for approximately 10 million patients enrolled in managed care plans. Prevalence estimates were calculated for 1997 and 1998.
Results: The prevalence of dry eye was 0.48% in 1997 and 0.39% in 1998, representing 25,180 and 27,289 cases, respectively. Patients aged > or = 65 years were approximately 4 times as likely as those aged < 65 years to be diagnosed with keratoconjunctivitis sicca or tear film insufficiency. In 1997, dry eye was diagnosed or treated in 0.65% of women compared with 0.26% of men (P < 0.001). Rates of dry eye disease in 1998 were highest among women aged 75 to 79 years (2.02%) and men aged 80 to 84 years (1.30%). Women tended to receive a diagnosis at a younger age than did men. The most common diagnosis was tear film insufficiency (73.96% and 73.41% of dry eye patients in 1997 and 1998, respectively). The most common procedure was lacrimal punctal occlusion by plug (7.78% and 8.74% of dry eye patients in 1997 and 1998, respectively).
Conclusion: The prevalence of treated dry eye disease is 0.4% to 0.5% and is highest among women and the elderly.