Approximately 1.68 million U.S. men aged 50 years and older have clinically important dry eye disease, a number that researchers expect to grow to an estimated 2.79 million by 2030.

“Although this number is only about half the estimated prevalence of [dry eye disease] among women in the same age group, it points to a substantial burden of disease in this segment of the U.S. population,” the study’s authors write (Arch Ophthalmol. 2009;127: 763-768).

The team examined data from 25,000 men to determine the prevalence and risk factors of dry eye disease in this population. Researchers found that men’s risk for dry eye disease increases with age and antidepressant use, as well as with hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia and use of medications for these conditions.

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The researchers call dry eye an important public health problem, noting that it’s one of the most prevalent eye diseases and reasons for seeking eye care among older people. Dry eye disease increases the risk of ocular infections and discomfort and can lead to visual disturbances that interfere with such activities as driving, working on a computer, and reading. The authors hope their findings will motivate clinicians and other researchers to learn more about dry eye disease and develop more effective interventions.