Sleep disorders are on the rise and may be a contributing factor to the increase in the number of dry eye cases, a study in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reports.

South Korean researchers recently analyzed data from the National Health Insurance Service National Sample Cohort from 2012 to 2015, which included 44,366 patients. They found approximately 16.7% of all patients were diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, and dry eye rates were higher in those with sleep disorders (19.82% compared with 13.67% in patients without sleep issues). Additionally, a survival analysis showed sleep disorders positively correlated with a dry eye diagnosis.

Generally, dry eye is associated with women and patients who have greater accessibility to healthcare. However, in this study, the link between dry eye and sleep disorders was found to be greater in males and in those who were economically disadvantaged. The researchers were reluctant to advance a theory on a potential physical mechanism to explain the link, owing to the multitude of factors that influence dry eye’s course.

In populations with low risk for dry eye, sleep disorders could be a major risk factor for a dry eye diagnosis, researchers said.

Another study highlight: patients with severe health problems also had a greater likelihood of having both dry eye and a sleep disorder.

“This observation might be explained by the clinical vulnerability of this population. Thus, in severe health patients, managing sleep conditions could be a key factor in preventing DES,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

This study was the first attempt to investigate an association between sleep disorders without a psychiatric problem and dry eye in South Korea, investigators noted.

Han KT, Nam JH, Park EC. Do sleep disorders positively correlate with dry eye syndrome? Results of national claim data. Int J Environ Res Public Health. March 11, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].