Dry Eye Linked to Chronic Pain Conditions

JANUARY 11, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
Ocular discomfort and pain are not uncommon for patients with dry eye; however, it may be surprising to hear that these patients may have more non-ocular pain conditions as well.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine hypothesized that patients with more chronic pain syndromes would have a different dry eye phenotype than those with less pain conditions. Why? Well, previous research has shown that patients with dry eye reported more eye pain and severe symptoms when it came to conditions such as chronic widespread pain, pelvic pain, and irritable bowel syndrome.

“Traditionally, eye specialists have treated dry eye with artificial tears or topical medications for the surface of the cornea. However, even if these treatments improve some dry eye symptoms, many patients continue to report underlying ocular and non-ocular pain,” lead author Anat Galor, MD, MSPH, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology, said in a news release. The team examined 154 patients with dry eye and measured their different types of pain with three scales. When they were grouped by either high or low amount of chronic pain syndromes, it became apparent that those with more conditions also had more severe neuropathic type of dry eye symptoms.

“Dry eye patients in our study reported higher levels of ocular and non-ocular pain associated with multiple chronic pain syndromes, and had lower scores on depression and quality-of-life indices consistent with a central sensitivity disorder,” explained corresponding author Roy C. Levitt, MD.

The findings published in The Journal of Pain provide further support that neuropathic ocular pain may indicate a central pain disorder. This is the first study to show that patients with dry eye and comorbid chronic pain syndromes experience more severe eye symptoms.

“Our highest priority is educating physicians that dry eye represents an overlapping chronic pain condition. Consequently, a multidisciplinary approach should be considered in the diagnosis and pain management of dry eye patients,” Galor concluded.

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