Objective: To describe the epidemiology of dry eye in the adult population of Melbourne, Australia.
Design: A cross-sectional prevalence study.
Participants: Participants were recruited by a household census from two of nine clusters of the Melbourne Visual Impairment Project, a population-based study of age-related eye disease in the 40 and older age group of Melbourne, Australia. Nine hundred and twenty-six (82.3% of eligible) people participated; 433 (46.8%) were male. They ranged in age from 40 to 97 years, with a mean of 59.2 years.
Main outcome measures: Self-reported symptoms of dry eye were elicited by an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Four objective assessments of dry eye were made: Schirmer's test, tear film breakup time, rose bengal staining, and fluorescein corneal staining. A standardized clinical slit-lamp examination was performed on all participants. Dry eye for the individual signs or symptoms was defined as: rose bengal > 3, Schirmers < 8, tear film breakup time < 8, > 1/3 fluorescein staining, and severe symptoms (3 on a scale of 0 to 3).
Results: Dry eye was diagnosed as follows: 10.8% by rose bengal, 16.3% by Schirmer's test, 8.6% by tear film breakup time, 1.5% by fluorescein staining, 7.4% with two or more signs, and 5.5% with any severe symptom not attributed to hay fever. Women were more likely to report severe symptoms of dry eye (odds ratio [OR] = 1.85; 95% confidence limits [CL] = 1.01, 3.41). Risk factors for two or more signs of dry eye include age (OR = 1.04; 95% CL = 1.01, 1.06), and self-report of arthritis (OR = 3.27; 95% CL = 1.74, 6.17). These results were not changed after excluding the 21 people (2.27%) who wore contact lenses.
Conclusions: These are the first reported population-based data of dry eye in Australia. The prevalence of dry eye varies by sign and symptom.