A new study out of Duke University suggests immune cells known as neutrophils play a crucial role in dry eye syndrome. According to this data, optometrists could soon diagnose patients for dry eye by scanning neutrophil levels.
Scientists first examined the eyes of a group of mice with allergy symptoms similar to dry eye syndrome. They soon found that these mice had higher neutrophil levels in their eyes than mice who didn’t have dry eye syndrome.
In the next phase of this study, researchers took tear samples from over 60 human patients and analyzed each for neutrophil content. People who had dry eye syndrome had a higher level of neutrophils than patients with healthy eyes.
Study authors point out, however, that these higher neutrophil levels aren’t the root cause of dry eye. Researchers believe these immune cells contribute to the weakening of the eyes’ meibomian glands, which are essential for producing oil that prevents tear evaporation.
Neutrophils seem to change the structure of the meibomian glands’ cells, which results in a condition known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). Most people who have moderate or severe dry eye have some degree of MGD.
Duke scientists hope their research will lead to more accurate screening methods for people suffering this common eye disorder.
Due to the proliferation of electronic screens and the global aging population,dry eye syndrome has become one of the world’s most common eye complaints.
Optometrists recommend anyone with dry eye syndrome practice the 20-20-20 rule when using electronic devices. After staring at a computer screen for 20 minutes, simply look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This simple strategy can help the eyes naturally re-moisturize.
A few other treatment strategies for dry eye sufferers include taking eye supplements, getting plenty of sunshine every day, and eating more fruits and veggies. A few of the best supplements to take include omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
Dr. Daniel R. Saban, who teaches in Duke University’s Department of Ophthalmology, was the lead researcher on this study. A few other scientists involved in this project include Drs. Chen Yu, Rose Matthew, and Preeya K. Gupta.
Anyone interested in reading more about this research should check out the latest edition of Science. Professors entitled their work, “Neutrophils cause obstruction of eyelid sebaceous glands in inflammatory eye disease in mice.”