A link may exist between dry eye and abnormal lipid levels in Korean middle-aged men but not in their female counterparts, a recent study in Cornea suggests.

Since the tear film layer plays a significant role in evaporative dry eye, previous research has explored the possible association between abnormal lipid levels and the condition. However, the results have been inconsistent, and few looked at the independent relationship between the two conditions, the researchers noted.

Abnormal lipid levels, or dyslipidemia, include four types of cholesterol disorders: high total cholesterol, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high

triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

The study included 2,272 participants—854 men and 1,418 women—who were enrolled in the Environmental Eye Disease study group. Individuals who took lipid-lowering medication were excluded. Investigators defined abnormal lipid levels as total cholesterol of 240mg/dl or greater, HDL less than 40mg/dl, LDL of 160mg/dl or greater or triglyceride levels of 20mg/dl or above. The study also recorded patients’ ocular surface disease index scores and considered dry eye a score of 13 or higher.

Men with dyslipidemia were 1.29 times more likely to have dry eye compared with all patients without the condition. After adjusting for age, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes, occupations, smoking and drinking status, exercise, contact lens wear, computer use, study cohorts and calendar year of examinations, the adjusted odds ratio for dry eye in men was approximately 1.40. However, researchers observed no significant association between dyslipidemia and dry eye in women, even after considering menopausal status.

Additionally, they noted a significant association after excluding antihypertensive or anti-diabetic medication users.

Although some systemic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and arthritis have been reported to be associated with dry eye, the independent association of dyslipidemia and dry eye has not been rigorously studied, the researcher said.

Regular monitoring of lipid profiles might be important to prevent dry eye, they added.

Choi HR, Lee JH, Lee HK, et al. Association between dyslipidemia and dry eye syndrome among the Korean middle-aged population. Cornea. September 11, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].