Long-term incidence of dry eye in an older population

Optom Vis Sci. 2008 Aug;85(8):668-74. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e318181a947.


Purpose: To estimate the ten-year incidence of dry eye in an older population and examine its association with various risk factors.

Methods: The 43 to 86 year old population of Beaver Dam, WI, was examined in 1988 to 1990 (n = 4926) and 1993 to 1995 (n = 3722). Dry eye data were first collected in 1993 to 1995. Subsequent examinations or interviews occurred in 1998 to 2000 (n = 2827) and 2003 to 2005 (n = 2124). The incidence cohort comprised 2414 subjects not reporting dry eye in 1993 to 1995. Risk factor information, ascertained in 1993 to 1995, included demographics, medical history, cardiovascular disease risk factors, medications, and life-style factors. Ten-year cumulative incidence was estimated by the product-limit method.

Results: Over the 10-year period, 482 subjects developed a history of dry eye for an incidence of 21.6% (95% confidence interval, 19.9 to 23.3%). Incidence increased significantly (p < 0.001) with age. Incidence was greater in women (25.0%) than men (17.2%, p < 0.001). After adjusting for age, incidence was greater (p < 0.05) in subjects with arthritis, allergy or thyroid disease not treated with hormone, using antihistamines, antianxiety medications, antidepressants, oral steroids or vitamins, and poorer self-rated health. Incidence was less (p < 0.05) in subjects consuming alcohol. It was not significantly associated with blood pressure, hypertension, serum total or high density lipoprotein cholesterol, body mass, diabetes, gout, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, smoking, caffeine use, or taking calcium channel blockers or anticholesterol medications. In a multivariable model with time-varying covariates, increased incidence was associated with age, female gender, poorer self-rated health, antidepressant or oral steroid use, and thyroid disease untreated with hormone. It was lower for those using angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or with a sedentary lifestyle.

Conclusions: Dry eye incidence is substantial. However, there are few associated risk factors. Some drugs (antihistamines, antianxiety drugs, antidepressants, oral steroids) are associated with greater risk, while angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors may be associated with lower risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology