Background: Dry eye syndrome is a highly prevalent, yet largely under diagnosed, condition that can substantially affect quality of life. Left untreated, dry eye is associated with chronic eye pain and increased risk of ocular surface disease. Current demographic changes and lifestyle factors indicate that the dry eye syndrome patient population will increase significantly, ensuring that general practitioners and ophthalmic clinicians alike will experience more patients presenting with dry eye symptoms. Greater public and practitioner awareness of emerging research, technologies, and therapies is crucial to ensuring appropriate interventions to meet specific patient needs and result in clinically favorable outcomes.
Roundtable assembly: In August 2005, a team of ocular surface experts convened for a 1-day roundtable session to discuss the latest information on diagnosing and treating dry eye syndrome and real-world issues in artificial tear therapy, including preservative use.
Roundtable discussion: The discussion centered on the mild to moderate dry eye patient and critical features of the ideal artificial tear, which are preservative-free formulation, protection from microbial contamination, cost-effective, non-blurring, and easy to use. Products that match this profile have the advantage of being able to benefit the myriad of patients who comprise the dry eye syndrome population. Ocular surface health should always remain a top priority. Preferred Practice Pattern Dry Eye Syndrome Medical Treatment guidelines should be modified to recommend the use of preservative-free formula artificial tear products for all levels of dry eye conditions in consideration of the medical benefit they offer to dry eye syndrome sufferers.
Conclusion: The growing prevalence of dry eye syndrome demands increased attention. Further research, enhanced diagnostic tests, increased use of preservative-free artificial tear formulations as first-line therapy, greater patient-practitioner interaction, and patient education are warranted.