US Pharm. 2015;40(6):36-38.

New research shows that dry eye strikes most often in spring, at the time when airborne allergens are surging. The study marks the first time that researchers have discovered a direct correlation between seasonal allergens and dry eye, with both pollen and dry-eye cases reaching a yearly peak in the month of April. The paper was published online in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Dry eye can significantly impact patients’ quality of life by inducing burning, irritation, and blurred vision. The common condition affects about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men, and costs the U.S. healthcare system nearly $4 billion a year. Even though allergens may exacerbate dry eye in those who already have the condition and produce similar symptoms, allergies and dry eye have historically been viewed as separate conditions. The latest discovery that the two conditions are linked suggests that dry-eye sufferers may benefit from allergy prevention in addition to dry-eye treatments such as artificial tears. Wearing goggles outside for yard work and using air filters indoors, for example, may stave off springtime dry eye, the researchers say.

The researchers discovered the correlation between allergies and dry eye by reviewing 3.4 million visits to Veterans Affairs eye clinics nationwide over a 5-year period between 2006 and 2011. During that time, doctors diagnosed nearly 607,000 patients with dry eye. Researchers also charted the monthly prevalence of dry eye compared to an allergy index over time and found seasonal correlations.

“For the first time, we’ve found what appears to be a connection between spring allergens like pollen and dry eye, but also saw that cases rose in winter,” said lead researcher Anat Galor, MD, MSPH, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. “Finding this correlation between dry eye and different seasons is one step toward helping physicians and patients treat the symptoms of dry eye even more effectively based on the time of year.”