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August 11, 2017
New Dry Eye Therapies on Horizon, Report Highlighted on Capitol Hill

In recognition of Dry Eye Awareness month in July, the National Eye Institute shared news of how recent strides in understanding dry eye may lead to more effective and longer-lasting therapies for the condition, which affects millions of people in the United States.

The congressional briefing, sponsored by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society, included (from l) Dr. Carolyn Begley, NEI-funded researcher and professor at Indiana University School of Optometry; Dr. Susan Vitale, research epidemiologist in NEI’s Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications; and ORWH director Dr. Janine Austin Clayton.
The congressional briefing, sponsored by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society, included (from l) Dr. Carolyn Begley, NEI-funded researcher and professor at Indiana University School of Optometry; Dr. Susan Vitale, research epidemiologist in NEI’s Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications; and ORWH director Dr. Janine Austin Clayton.

PHOTO: DAVID EPSTEIN

One novel treatment undergoing testing in clinical trials is a synthetic form of lacritin, a protein that stimulates tear production. Another area of research is exploring factors that influence the ability of nerves in the eye to sense cooling from evaporation and trigger a tearing response.

Dry eye occurs when glands near the eye do not produce tears properly or when the tears evaporate too quickly. The result—which can feel like having sand in one’s eye—is in some cases temporary. In others, it can be a chronic and progressive condition that leads to blurred vision or vision loss if left untreated. Currently available therapies for dry eye relieve symptoms, but do not address the underlying causes.

“Dry eye is a painful condition that more often affects women,” said Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, director of NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health. Health care providers need to be aware of this higher prevalence of dry eye among their female patients, she said at a July 12 Capitol Hill briefing.

The briefing also highlighted the newly released Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society Dry Eye Workshop II Report published in The Ocular Surface journal. The report updates the definition, classification and diagnosis of dry eye; critically evaluates the epidemiology, pathophysiology, mechanism and impact of the disease; addresses its management and therapy; and develops recommendations for the design of clinical trials to assess pharmaceutical interventions.

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