The work-related burden of dry eye

Ocul Surf. 2023 Jan 21;28:30-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jtos.2023.01.006. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: To investigate the relationship between dry eye disease (DED) and work functioning, unemployment, absenteeism, and worry about job loss.

Methods: DED and unemployment, absenteeism, and 'worry about job loss' were assessed in 71,067 subjects (18-65 years, 60% female) from the Dutch population-based Lifelines cohort using the Women's Health study questionnaire and single-item questions, respectively. Work functioning was assessed in 32,475 participants using the Work role functioning questionnaire 2.0. The relationships between DED and work measures were assessed with logistic regression models, corrected for age, sex, BMI, income, educational level, smoking, and 48 comorbidities.

Results: 8.3% of participants had DED and had more impaired work functioning compared to those without DED (49.2% vs 41.1%, OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.10-1.32, corrected for demographics, smoking and 48 comorbidities). DED carried a similar risk of impaired work functioning as rheumatoid arthritis. For participants with highly symptomatic dry eye impaired work functioning was even higher (59.1%) and similar to that of depression. The impaired work functioning seen with increasing symptoms were greater in undiagnosed subjects versus diagnosed subjects (P = 0.03). After correction for comorbidities, DED remained tied to absenteeism and increased worry about job loss, but not unemployment.

Conclusion: DED was linked to impaired work functioning and absence, but not unemployment. DEDs impact on work functioning is comparable to that of other severe chronic disorders, and undiagnosed subjects may be more affected. This highlights the importance of recognizing DED as a severe disorder and of screening for dry eye in the workplace to aid with diagnosis and treatment.

Keywords: Absenteeism; Dry eye disease; Unemployment; Work; Work functioning.