Is India on the brink of an emerging dry-eye disease epidemic? If results of the analysis of a huge sample of 1.45 million patients is an indication, then the answer would be, yes! The problem is in sight.

By the year 2030, a staggering 275 million people are expected to be affected by this problem.

Serious concern

The projection is based on the current incidence rates of 45 per cent of the country’s urban population, according to the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI).

The study, by Sayan Basu, Anthony Vipin Das and team, used eyeSmart Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system to analyse millions of data records of patients. The findings were published in The Ocular Surface , a peer-reviewed international medical journal.

Dry eye is a condition where the eyes do not produce enough tears or of the needed quality. It not only affects the patient’s vision, but also disturbs their quality of life, causing anxiety and even depression, often affecting their professional productivity said Sayan Basu, Director of the Center for Ocular Regeneration.

The authors said even rural India is likely to see 17 million new patients every year. This would make dry eye disease a serious health concern, even more common than diseases like diabetes or heart-disease, they warned.

Novel insights

The study discovered novel insights such as age and gender-related risk, where men were noted to be at higher risk in their twenties or thirties, while women were more vulnerable in their forties and fifties. Other high-risk factors identified are urban residence, socio-economic affluence and professional work (including computer-based vocations).

Pragnya Rao, the lead author of the research paper and dry-eye disease specialist, said: “Since India is an emerging economy with a growing middle class, increasing urban migration and a large ageing population, the country is on the brink of an epidemic.”

The eyeSmart EMR has been indigenously developed by LVPEI. It helps access large structured datasets for research, generate reliable evidence in tracking disease patterns and treatments better, said Vipin Das, whose team developed the system.

The study further reveals if detected early and treated appropriately, patients with dry eyes can lead a normal and symptom-free life. Sometimes dry eyes can be associated with serious medical conditions like arthritis, which if neglected can even lead to irreversible visual impairment or even blindness.

Therefore, it is critical that the people-at-risk particularly the urban corporate workforce gets screened for this condition and seeks timely relief. Facilities to do this exists in the country with LVPEI and recently, the MaxiVision Group opened a new centre in Hyderabad.