Dry eye is on the rise no matter your age or gender, according to a new study in American Journal of Ophthalmology that found the annual dry eye prevalence rate tripled from 2005 to 2012.

In this large study, researchers analyzed beneficiary medical claims from the Department of Defense Military Health System’s military and civilian facilities from 2003 to 2015. Investigators used an algorithm that identified 9.7 million subjects through medical diagnostic codes indicative of dry eye and prescriptions for cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion. The study looked at overall dry eye prevalence from 2003 to 2015, annual prevalence from 2005 to 2012 and annual incidence rates from 2008 to 2012. They broke the data down by gender, age and ICD9 diagnostic codes.

Investigators reported overall dry eye prevalence was 5.28%—and more common in women, 7.78% compared with 2.96% in men. The study also found dry eye increased with age (0.20%, 2.03%, 5.74% and 11.66% in subjects aged two to 17, 18 to 39, 40 to 49 and 50 or older, respectively). Within each age group, overall prevalence in women was two to three times higher than their male counterparts, investigators noted.

Researchers found the annual prevalence rate increased from 0.8% to 3% overall. This included a rise of 1.4% to 4.5% in women and 0.3% to 1.6% in men. Additionally, the annual prevalence rate increased across age groups, starting at 18 to 39 (0.1% to 0.6%) to ages 50 and older (1.8% to 6%).

The study reported the annual incidence rate increased from 0.6% to 0.9% overall. By gender, this rose from 0.8% to 1.2% in women and from 0.3% to 0.6% in men. Across age groups, the annual incidence rate increased starting at ages 18 to 39, (0.2% to 0.3%) to ages 50 and older (1.0% to 1.6%).

“Importantly, data from the present study suggest that annual prevalence and incidence rates have increased over time,” the authors wrote in their paper. Although the study wasn’t designed to identify contributors to this trend, they noted “one likely contributing factor is an increase in education and awareness of DED over time as a treatable condition.” 

Dana R, Bradley JL, Guerin A, et al. Estimated prevalence and incidence of dry eye disease based on coding analysis of a large, all-age United States health care system. Am J Opthalmol. February 2, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].