Dry Eye Awareness Month 2021 Focuses on a Looming Lifestyle Epidemic—Ocular Surface Disease

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the vision community and its coalition partners announced awareness and educational activities in July 2021 around the annual recognition of Dry Eye Awareness Month.

On July 13th the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR), in conjunction with the Tear Film &  Ocular Surface Society (TFOS), will host the Sixth Annual Dry Eye Awareness Month Congressional Briefing entitled A Lifestyle Epidemic—Ocular Surface Disease held virtually from 12 Noon – 1:00 pm. RSVP to Dina Beaumont at [email protected] or 202-407-8325 to attend or link to: https://www.arvo.org/advocacy/NAEVR-virtual-events/    

The Briefing features key leaders of TFOS’ next Global Workshop entitled “A Lifestyle Epidemic: Ocular Surface Disease,” who will participate in an interview-style discussion about the causes of and quality-of-life implications from Dry Eye Disease (DED) as just one of several diseases of the ocular surface. The vision community’s knowledge of diseases of the ocular surface—or front-of-the-eye—has evolved dramatically in the past few years. The National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is supporting numerous studies on the causes of and quality-of-life implications from ocular surface disease (OSD), as is private industry. The NEI has launched the Anterior Segment Initiative (ASI) to address the clinically significant OSD problems of dry eye, ocular pain, and ocular inflammation in terms of pain and discomfort sensations and disruptions in the tearing reflex. The ASI plans to study relevant anterior segment neural pathways that contribute to normal or abnormal functioning of the circuits related to the ocular surface to understand and mitigate disease.    

As clinicians and researchers more fully understand the breadth of OSD, they have increasingly recognized the role that lifestyle and the environment play in disease development. DED, which has been identified as a global problem affecting more than 30 million people in the United States alone, occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. For some people, it feels like a speck of sand in the eye, or a stinging or burning that does not go away. For others, dry eye can become a painful chronic and progressive condition that leads to blurred vision or even vision loss if it goes untreated. Moderate-to-severe dry eye is associated with significant quality-of-life consequences, such as pain, role limitations, low vitality, poor general health, and depression.

DED has no cure, but its signs and symptoms can be managed—often dependent on lifestyle choices and changes. 

Although researchers have long known about age and sex as factors, they are now discovering ethnic and racial differences and that dry eye increasingly impacts younger patients. It can have many causes including: side-effects from medications or eye surgery (called Iatrogenic Dry Eye); lid disorders; immune system diseases such as Sjögren's, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis; contact lens wear; cosmetic use; and environmental exposure. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, billions of individuals globally have been reliant on digital communications to learn, work, and stay in touch. Prolonged device exposure time can have many consequences, including Digital Eye Strain which can result in blurred vision, as well as both  potential short- and long-term effects, such as DED.

TFOS’ “A Lifestyle Epidemic: Ocular Surface Disease” Global Workshop follows its Dry Eye Workshop II (TFOS DEWS II™) Report, released in July 2017 and published in The Ocular Surface journal. That re-examination of TFOS’s initial 2007 Report updated the definition, classification, and diagnosis of DED; critically evaluated the epidemiology, pathophysiology, mechanism, and impact of the disease; addressed its management and therapy; and developed recommendations for design of clinical trials to assess therapies. 

The vision community members recognizing July 2021 as Dry Eye Awareness Month and engaging in awareness and educational activities include:  

Alliance for Eye and Vision Research
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Academy of Optometry
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
American Optometric Association
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology


Healthy Women
Prevent Blindness
Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington
Research to Prevent Blindness
Sjögren’s Foundation
Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society 

About AEVR
Founded in 1993, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation dedicated to education about the importance of federal funding for eye and vision research through its Research Saving Sight, Restoring Vision Initiative. Visit AEVR’s Web site at www.eyeresearch.org

About TFOS
Founded in 2000, the Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society is a world leader in eye health education headquartered in Boston. A 501(c)3 non-profit foundation, TFOS is dedicated to advancing the research, literacy, and educational aspects of the scientific field of the eye’s surface. Visit TFOS’ Web site at www.tearfilm.org