Stress can put a whammy on your health, including manifesting into physical conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular issues, to name a few. But two new studies have found that stress can also exacerbate dry eye.1,2

A recent study in Cornea found sleep quality may play an important role in the development of dry eye by influencing tear secretion and tear film stability and by also indirectly aggravating anxiety and depression.1

In this Chinese-based study, investigators performed tear film break-up time (TBUT), corneal fluorescein staining and Schirmer I tests to evaluate dry eye in 106 patients. Subjects also completed a Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a patient health questionnaire and a general anxiety disorder scale survey.1

The study found patients with dry eye had higher depression and anxiety scores compared with the control group. In the dry eye group, patients with poor sleep quality had more severe symptoms indicated by shorter TBUT and lower Schirmer I findings. Investigators found a significant correlation between sleep quality and mood status in patients with dry eye. Additionally, investigators reported severe symptoms of dry eye were significantly associated with a higher level of anxiety in patients with dry eye.1

A second study, in Eye & Contact Lens, that evaluated the prevalence and risk factors of dry eye among medical students in Korea found a correlation between increased psychological stress and dry eye symptoms.2

This cross-sectional study included 209 students at a medical school in Korea. Researchers assessed dry eye symptoms by using a nine-item questionnaire, the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) and visual analog scale (VAS). The subjects also participated in a survey that included demographic data, potential risk factors for dry eye, personal habits and psychological stress.2

The study found the dry eye prevalence was 27.1%. Additionally, participants with dry eye had significantly higher VAS and OSDI scores compared with those without dry eye symptoms. Subjects who were female, wore contact lenses, were on the computer for long periods of time or had higher psychological stress scores had a significant association with dry eye symptoms.2

The researchers found symptomatic dry eye was prevalent among medical students, and increased psychological stress was associated with higher risk of dry eye.2  

1. Wu M, Liu X, Han J, et al. Association between sleep quality, mood status, and ocular surface characteristics in patients with dry eye disease. Cornea. December 31, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].

2. Hyon JY, Yang HK, Han SB. Dry eye symptoms may have association with psychological stress in medical students. Eye Contact Lens. December 21, 2018. (Epub ahead of print].