Research Finds Link Between Dry Eyes and Chronic Pain

Research Finds Link Between Dry Eyes and Chronic Pain

By Tara Heath

Dry eye is a medical condition suffered by those whose eyes either don’t produce sufficient tears or they are of poor quality. Without sufficient lubrication for these eyes, they are also not being nourished properly and those afflicted with this condition can have a burning or stinging sensation that’s extremely uncomfortable.

Recently, researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine uncovered a link between dry eyes and chronic pain. Physicians from Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, a part of the University’s Health System, Doctors Anat Galor and Roy Levitt published their findings in the American Pain Society’s Journal of Pain publication.

Findings

“Our study indicates that some patients with dry eye have corneal somatosensory pathway dysfunction and would be better described as having neuropathic ocular pain,” reported Dr. Galor. Her associate Dr. Levitt expanded, “Dry eye patients in our study reported higher levels of ocular and nonocular pain associated with multiple chronic pain syndromes, and had lower scores on depression and quality-of-life indices consistent with a central sensitivity disorder.”

Left untreated, dry eyes can lead to pain, ulcers, or scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. Unlike some other eyesight related conditions like cataracts, there’s no surgical treatment available to cure this condition. “Patient’s eyes may become hyper-sensitive to stimuli, such as wind or light, or have spontaneous pain such as a feeling of burning, which is typically associated with nerve injury,” offered Dr. Levitt.

Options

“Traditionally, eye specialists have treated dry eye with artificial tears or topical medications for the surface of the cornea,” Dr. Galor reports. “However, even if these treatments improve some dry eye symptoms, many patients continue to report underlying ocular and non-ocular pain.”

By The Numbers

rubbing eyesAccording to estimates from the American Eye Institute, dry eyes affect around 3 million Americans annually. For some that produce a small amount tears, sometimes they can evaporate from the surface of the cornea before they can provide relief for those suffering from this painful and irritating condition.

Moving Forward

“Our highest priority is educating physicians that dry eye represents an overlapping chronic pain condition,” concludes Dr. Galor. “Consequently, a multidisciplinary approach should be considered in the diagnosis and pain management of dry eye patients.”

Other Work
Dr. Galor and her associate Dr. Levitt continue their work at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, world renown as one of the best providers of eye care. Their team treats over 250,000 patients each year and perform 18,000 surgeries annually. They have four locations in Florida including Miami, Naples, Palm Beach Gardens and Plantation.

With ongoing research, a solution for dry eyes may be heading for a more long-term, permanent solution other than eye drops or topical solutions that only seem to provide temporary relief. For now, we can thank Dr. Galor, Dr. Levitt and more than twenty other researchers for providing us with this important link and associative information.

For a complete list of all the doctors who contributed to this study, visit the University of Miami Health System’s website here.

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Authored by: Tara Heath

There are 7 comments for this article
  1. D at 7:36 am

    This article leaves out the fact that unnecessary refractive eye surgery such as LASIK is often the cause of severe chronic eye pain and dryness. See other articles published by these authors.
    Also for a full explanation of the devastation to lives caused by refractive surgery eye pain see ophthalmogist Dr Perry Rosenthal’s foundation at bostoneyepain.org for professional articles, power points, and videos of sufferers.
    See lasikcomplications.com as well. Sufferers can go to Facebook lasik complications for support.

  2. Shirley Gard at 8:22 pm

    I have terrible dry eyes!! This makes so much sense.. I have Lupus, Fibro, on and on and no matter what my eye Dr does it has no effect. I’ve had an actual hole in my cornea and constant problems. I have plugs in my tear ducts, nothing helps.. Restasis is worthless. I am really interested to see where this goes.

  3. Angel at 1:35 pm

    This is a bit confusing stating pain patients with chronic dry eye (like myself) have a hyper sensitivity to pain yet also validating the fact they have less tear production in fact so little they may have tears evaporate before the eye may absorb lubricate and use them. This seems to me we cannot blame a physical problem on hypersensitive pain sensation when it’s actually happening but this overall is very interesting I never would’ve linked my dry scratchy eyes with chronic pain. I hope further research is done in this area

  4. Linda Myers at 10:53 am

    I’ve had this condition for years. When I have a flare up it is debilitating. I’ve gone from one ophthalmologist to another, but not one can find anything wrong. They acted like I was crazy.

    I have suffered from chronic pain for over 15 years. I was taking pain medications, and now that I think about not, I had fewer eye pain days during those years. Of course now I have no pain medications, except over the counter. I had to take an early retirementb because I just could not work anymore. My doctor said I don’t need pain medication anymore because I don’t work. I guess he feels your life is over once you retire.

    Since I had to go into withdrawal after years of pain management, I have noticed many instances of severe eye pain. My eyes have uncomfortable burning and light sensitivity most of the time, but I have periods of severe pain in one eye or the other that lasts days. No one has ever taken me seriously.

    It’s very interesting to hear this news.

  5. Kristil at 10:47 am

    My eye problems started at the same time my chronic pain did and I have always wondered if they were related. 34 yrs of pain and 34 yrs of eye problems, excessive tearing, very sensitive of light, outer corners of eyes red and sore, floaters, itchy scratchy feeling. Wear sunglasses a lot, even on cloudy days and have had my windows tinted in all my cars for this reason

  6. Jean Price at 6:32 am

    I wonder if they have considered we may exhaust our tears by crying…and therefore dry eye is most definitely direct correlation of pain!!?! Or the eye pain is set off by neuralgia from facial nerves and scalp nerves stressed from the constant expressions of pain. Looks like the eye care industry will also be affected by the CDC war on pain pills!! And we’ll have one more issue to deal with…I’m amazed, yet not surprised, at the many correlations with all body functions and systems pain does have, and it stands to reason…pain is a whole body experience, a family experience, and not only limits but threatens life!! I thought we had finally learned this in health care way back when hospices started forming…guess it wasn’t a permanent type of knowledge!

  7. Dian M. Lovejoy at 3:28 am

    Boy is this ever correct, this one suffers from this condition, she’s losin much vision, no a thing gives long term relief, just t’same she finds joy in life, loves t’hear from other chronic pain brothers an sisters, she can still laugh, act like a dufus. This report reveals another layer of our disease. love yeall…be safe an blessed yatahii.