These might be familiar symptoms to you: your eyes are red or bloodshot, they feel tired, itchy or sore, your eyelids are puffy and tender. Dry eye disease, also called dry eye disorder, is a very common condition. It is affecting millions of people in the United States every year.
The incidence of dry eye also increases with age, affecting elderly people more frequently than younger adults. With the average age in the United States rising each year and the Baby Boomer generation entering retirement age, dry eye disease is going to be a growing issue in American health care.
Prevalence of Dry Eye
Dry eye disease can affect anyone. The risk in the United States is not influenced by ethnicity, education, or geographical region. A study conducted in 2013 surveyed 75,000 adults representing a diverse demographic from across the United States about whether they had been diagnosed with dry eye disease or experienced dry eye symptoms.
Only 2.7% of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 had been diagnosed with dry eye disease. This rate increased to 11.3% (approximately 1 in 9) in adults over the age of 50, which the Baby Boomer generation falls into, and up to 18.6% in those older than 75.1
Along with this, doctors are noting a general increase in the number of cases they diagnosed each year. Several factors that increase the risk of developing eye irritation or which can exacerbate its symptoms are also on the rise, which we will discuss in a bit. Dr. David Kisling, an expert in dry eye, has predicted that the disease will be the most common optical disorder afflicting those in the Baby Boomer generation by the year 2030.
By that time the United States could be spending several billion dollars annually for dry eye treatment alone.2
Possible Causes of Dry Eye in the Baby Boomer Generation
One of the reasons that dry eye prevalence may increase with age is the increased use of medications. Several medications are associated with dry eye effects. Such medications include:
- blood pressure lowering drugs such as beta blockers
- some sleeping aids
- and certain pain medications like Vicodin.
Some diseases also can compound the effects of dry eye.
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which tend to worsen with age, contribute to dry eye, as can herpes zoster.
- Diabetes especially increases dry eye risk, and this disease is becoming quite prevalent among Baby Boomers – an estimated 1 out of 4 individuals over the age of 65 will develop diabetes.
- Contact lenses and eye surgery such as LASIK can irritate eyes and cause dry eye symptoms.
With vision problems especially common among people over 40 years old, Baby Boomers are quite likely to be using corrective lenses or undergoing LASIK surgery to manage deteriorating vision.
Keep Your Eyes Clean
Understanding and mediating risk factors can help reduce the likelihood of developing dry eye disease. But the most important thing anyone can do to help prevent it is to maintain proper eye hygiene.
Cleaning the skin around your eyes every day will clear irritants and infectious pathogens from your eyes. It will keep the tear and oil glands in your eyelids unclogged and functioning properly. The Cliradex Light foaming cleanser is especially useful for a daily cleansing routine. It is gentle on facial and eyelid skin. It also has deep cleaning properties to remove bio-materials and help reduce other potential dry eye causes.
Good eyelid hygiene will help to both resolve and prevent dry eye disease from developing, even as you move toward your golden years.
As always, if you have been experiencing dry eye symptoms that do not go away on their own, seek advice from your eye doctor for the best course of treatment.
- Farrand KF, Fridman M, Stillman IÖ, Schaumberg DA. Prevalence of Diagnosed Dry Eye Disease in the United States Among Adults Aged 18 Years and Older. American journal of ophthalmology. 2017;182(Supplement C):90-98.
- Dry Eye Syndrome To Become Most Common Eye Disease in Baby Boomers. In: Cision PRWeb; 2011.