Dry eye disease symptoms, incidence worsen during COVID-19 lockdown
There was an increase in the incidence of dry-eye disease (DED) during the lockdown for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a recent study has found. Such a spike may be related to the increase in use of visual display terminals (VDTs).
In this cross-sectional study, researchers administered an online survey to 535 participants (67.3 percent women), of whom 37.2 percent had been diagnosed with DED. The questionnaire included queries on screen use and general and mental health. It also measured the dry-eye symptom score (DESS), which evaluates several ocular symptoms including dryness, irritation, and soreness, among others.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, mean DESS dropped from 81.6 to 79.8 (p<0.001), indicative of worsening DED symptoms in the overall study cohort. Such pattern was observed in both the DED patients (74.1 to 72.2; p<0.001) and healthy controls (86.0 to 84.3; p<0.001).
Concomitantly, daily VDT use likewise rose significantly during lockdown, from a mean of 10.55 to 13.08 hours (p<0.001). According to participants, work/study was the major contributing factor to prolonged screen use; other factors included getting news updates, watching movies, and using social media.
More than a quarter (25.9 percent) of participants reported mental health problems under lockdown, most frequent of which were constantly feeling under strain, feeling unhappy, and not enjoying daily activities.
Multivariate analysis identified two significant and independent risk factors for worsening DED symptoms: being female (odds ratio [OR], 1.86, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.14–3.04) and higher VDT usage during lockdown (OR, 5.68, 95 percent CI, 3.49–9.23).