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Epidemiology of discordance between symptoms and signs of dry eye


Background/aims The frequent lack of association between dry eye (DE) symptoms and signs leads to challenges in diagnosing and assessing the disease.

Methods Participants underwent ocular surface examinations to evaluate signs of disease and completed questionnaires to assess ocular symptoms, psychological status and medication use. To assess nociceptive system integrity, quantitative sensory testing (QST), including vibratory and thermal threshold measures and temporal summation of pain were obtained at the forearm and forehead. Correlations between DE discordance score (degree of discrepancy between symptom severity and DE signs) and patient characteristics were determined. Higher discordance scores indicated more symptoms than signs.

Results 326 patients participated (mean age: 62 years; SD: 10 years; 92% men). Age was negatively correlated with DE discordance score (Pearson r=−0.30, p<0.0005), while mental health indices were positively correlated. Chronic pain elsewhere in the body (ie, non-ocular pain conditions) and intensity ratings of prolonged aftersensations of pain evoked by noxious hot and cold stimuli were also significantly correlated with DE discordance score. Multiple linear regression demonstrated that post-traumatic stress disorder and non-ocular pain intensity were important predictors of DE discordance score, Dry Eye Questionnaire-5 and Ocular Surface Disease Index and that DE discordance was also sensitive to QST as well.

Conclusions The present study provides evidence that the degree of discordance between DE symptom report and measurable signs of ocular surface disease is associated with comorbidities related to clinical pain and to hyperalgesia as demonstrated with QST. Understanding the epidemiology of DE discordance can aid in interpreting the DE exam and individualising treatment.

  • dry eye
  • signs symptoms discordance
  • quantitative sensory testing
  • central sensitization

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