Date Published:2016 Feb
PURPOSE: To describe the natural history of dry eye disease (DED), which chronically affects millions of people in the United States. DESIGN: This study is based on the Women's Health Study and Physicians' Health Studies, and uses questionnaires and medical records. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 398 men and 386 women who reported a diagnosis of DED and responded to a questionnaire about change in disease since diagnosis. METHODS: Three subscales were developed using factor analysis of questionnaire responses: ocular surface symptoms, vision-related symptoms, and social impact. We examined correlates of worsening on each subscale, obtained medical records from a subset of 261 study participants, and examined changes in clinical signs of DED over time. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Worsening in ocular surface symptoms, vision-related symptoms, and social impact plus clinical signs. RESULTS: The average duration of DED of 10.5 years (standard deviation, 9.5 years). Worsening was reported by 24% for ocular surface symptoms, 29% for vision-related symptoms, and 10% for social impact. Factors associated with worsening on at least 2 of 3 subscales included a previous report of severe DED symptoms (odds ratio [OR], 2.17 for ocular surface symptoms; OR, 2.35 for vision-related symptoms), spending >$20 per month on DED treatments (OR, 1.80 for ocular surface symptoms; OR, 1.99 for vision-related symptoms), history of blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) (OR, 1.57 for vision-related symptoms; OR, 2.12 for social impact), and use of systemic beta-blockers (OR, 1.62 for ocular surface symptoms; OR, 1.84 for vision-related symptoms; OR, 1.86 for the social impact of DED). Presence of corneal staining based on review of medical records was associated with use of level 2 or higher DED treatments (OR, 1.54; confidence interval [CI], 1.01-2.36), a previous report of severe DED symptoms (OR, 1.79; CI, 1.07-3.00), having a tear break-up test performed (OR, 2.73; CI, 1.72-4.36), and having blepharitis or MGD (OR, 0.59; CI, 0.35-0.98). CONCLUSIONS: A proportion of patients with DED experience worsening over time, tending to report with more severe symptoms earlier in the disease. Forthcoming data on the natural history of DED from prospective studies should help clarify some of the limitations of this retrospective study.