38% of patients visiting their eye care professional suffer from Dry Eye. These patients spend $3.8 billion per year in the U.S. on symptom relief.57 There are an estimated 300 million dry eye sufferers worldwide with 23 million sufferers over the age of 20 in the United States alone.
Dry eye sufferers experience great discomfort and are desperately seeking a new approach from traditional therapies, which only provide limited symptomatic relief. Eye care professionals are equally frustrated with the limited tools available to properly diagnose and treat dry eye.
In the United States, the economic burden of dry eye totals $3.84 billion in direct annual health care costs. When including the indirect costs of lost productivity, the societal burden of dry eye rises to $55.4 billion annually in the U.S.
For patients, the average annual direct cost ranges from $678 for patients with mild dry eye to $1,267 for severe cases. If pharmaceuticals and punctual plugs are included, the cost rises for these patients to $2,959 annually.
For employers, dry eye boils down to lost productivity. Studies show that mild and moderate dry eye sufferers incurred a productivity loss of more than $12,000 annually. For severe dry eye patients, productivity loss is estimated at $18,000 annually.58
The two predominant forms of dry eye are aqueous deficient (which is relatively rare) and lipid deficient, accounting for the vast majority of dry eye. Aqueous deficient dry eye occurs when the lacrimal glands do not generate enough aqueous (water) to keep the eyes sufficiently moist. Lipid deficient dry eye, also known as evaporative dry eye, occurs when the aqueous evaporates at a faster rate than normal due to an inadequate protective lipid (oil) layer on the surface of the tear film. Evaporative dry eye is the most prevalent type affecting up to 86% of dry eye sufferers.59
Historically, the industry’s attention has focused on aqueous deficient dry eye and on relieving inflammation in the eyelids. More recently, the MGD workshop, involving two years of work by 50 leading experts from around the world, concluded that obstructed Meibomian glands (or MGD) is an under-estimated condition and is likely the leading cause of dry eye disease.60
With this new understanding, physicians are rethinking their approach to dry eye which includes treating the primary cause of dry eye rather than just treating the symptoms.
Eye care professionals have traditionally utilized tests that identify the impact of the sequelae of dry eye on the tear film and ocular surface. These tests examine aspects of the disease such as ocular surface damage, tear film stability, osmolarity, and inflammation. While helpful, these tests do not identify the primary cause or causes of dry eye. For that reason we strongly recommend that meibomian gland function and structure be incorporated into every eye exam, particularly a dry eye exam.
Treatments for dry eye are varied and plentiful including artificial tears, gels, ointments; punctual plugs/ cautery; allergy eye drops; topical antibiotics, moisture goggles; warm compress; and eye lid scrubs. These methods often targeted symptom relief in the short-term but not the root cause of the majority of dry eye, MGD.