Dry Eye Prevalent in Environments With Low Humidity, High Pollution

Geographic region, age, ethnicity, and other variables may affect dry eye prevalence.

Dry eye disease (DED) is common among individuals living in Saudi Arabia and may be attributed to dry weather, low annual rainfall and humidity, air conditioners, air pollution, high temperature, and exposure to sunlight, according to research published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye. 

Researchers included 4066 adults from the 5 primary geopolitical regions of Saudi Arabia in the analysis (mean age, 38.7 years; 56.8% men) and administered a 3-question validated questionnaire to obtain information pertaining to DED prevalence and associated risk factors. Study participants were stratified according to age, sex, and geographical location. 

Disease prevalence was 49.5% among the cohort. A total of 33.1% of individuals reported a previous diagnosis of DED, with 16.4% reporting severe symptoms and a previous DED diagnosis. A total of 49.8% of participants who were men reported DED symptomatology compared with 50.2% of women. 

Risk factors for DED identified in the investigation included female sex (odds ratio [OR], 1.48; 95 % CI, 1.30–1.88), age older than 60 years (OR, 1.99; 95 % CI 1.60–2.81), previous refractive surgery (OR, 1.79; 95 % CI, 1.50–2.59), acne treatment (OR, 1.51; 95 % CI, 1.34–1.97), contact lens wear (OR, 1.77; 95 % CI, 1.40–2.48), antiallergy drug use (OR, 2.23; 95 % CI, 1.55–2.78), computer use longer than 6 hours per day (OR, 1.66; 95 % CI, 1.41–2.52), and antidepressant use (OR, 1.60; 95 % CI, 1.14–2.44). Geographic region, ethnicity, and occupation were also associated with DED prevalence.

DED can have a negative impact on visual acuity, ocular surface, and certain daily activities, representing an important issue to be addressed by clinicians and eye care workers when dealing with patients with eye discomfort and those reporting the most important related risk factors.  

“There was a higher prevalence of DED in the central region, where the dry desert climate prevails, whereas the northern region had a lower prevalence despite both regions having a similar climate (the northern region had the lowest average annual rainfall across the kingdom),” the researchers explain.

The study was limited by small sample sizes in some subgroups. 


Alkhaldi SA, Allam KH, Radwan MA, Sweeny LE, Alshammeri S. Estimates of dry eye disease in Saudi Arabia based on a short questionnaire of prevalence, symptoms, and risk factors: the Twaiq Mountain Eye Study I. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. Published online October 6, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.clae.2022.101770