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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Stress Disorder Strong Indicators of Vision Problems for Veterans

Posted: 11.30.2012

November 11, 2012

Many veterans of the United States armed forces who have post-traumatic stress disorder also have undiagnosed, chronic vision problems, according to a study published by Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s Ana Galor, M.D., assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology, who specializes in corneal and external diseases. Her findings were presented published in the August 2012 issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology and presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting, the world’s largest ophthalmology conference.

Eye Disorder Common in Seniors Strikes Sooner in Veterans with PTSD 
Galor’s study of war veterans, conducted at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at UHealth, part of the University of Miami, found that veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression are much more likely to develop dry eye syndrome than veterans who do not have these psychological diagnoses. In the authors’ review of more than two million veterans’ medical records, the research team found that about 20 percent of those diagnosed with PTSD or depression have dry eye syndrome, a disorder that disrupts the tear glands’ normal ability to keep the eyes moist.

The disorder’s impact on vision can range from mild to severe, causing the sufferer’s eyes to feel scratchy or irritated, to become overly-watery, or secrete stringy mucus. Treatment options include simple warm compresses, artificial tears, and surgical insertion of plugs to retain tears. In the general U.S. population, the risk of dry eye syndrome increases with age, affecting about 3.2 million women age 50 and older and 1.68 million men age 50 and older.

“Many vets won’t mention that their eyes always feel gritty or seem to water for no reason, unless they’re asked,” said Galor. “Since dry eye can escalate and permanently damage vision if untreated, it’s crucial that health professionals who care for veterans with psychiatric diagnoses ask them about specific dry eye symptoms and refer them to an ophthalmologist if needed.”

The average age of the veterans with dry eye in this study is younger than is typical for dry eye patients in the civilian population. It was unclear from the study whether the veterans’ dry eye was directly caused by PTSD or depression, or the medications given for these conditions, or perhaps a combination of factors was to blame. Estimates of the prevalence of PTSD in all U.S. veterans range from two to 17 percent. This study was supported by Veterans Administration grants.

About Bascom Palmer…
Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is ranked the #1 eye hospital in the nation, as noted in U.S. News & World Report. Having earned an international reputation as one of the premier providers of eye care in the world, Bascom Palmer has also been ranked #1 in patient care and residency training by Ophthalmology Times. As the largest ophthalmic care, research and educational facility in the southeastern United States, each year Bascom Palmer treats more than 250,000 patients with nearly every ophthalmic condition and performs more than 12,000 surgeries. Founded in 1962, Bascom Palmer has patient care facilities in Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, Naples, and Plantation, Florida.