Medication use and dry eye symptoms: A large, hypothesis-free, population-based study in the Netherlands

Laura E. Wolpert, Harold Snieder, Nomdo M. Jansonius, Tor P. Utheim, Christopher J. Hammond, Jelle Vehof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To date, population-based studies reporting associations between dry eye disease and medications were hypothesis-driven, did not take into account underlying comorbidities, and did not investigate individual drugs. The purpose of this study was to clarify the association of dry eye symptoms with medication classes and individual drugs, using a hypothesis-free approach. Methods: 79,606 participants (age 20–97 years, 59.2% female) from the population-based Lifelines cohort in the Netherlands were cross-sectionally assessed for dry eye symptoms using the Womens’ Health Study dry eye questionnaire. All medications used were coded with the ATC classification system. Logistic regression was used to assess the risk of the 59 most-used therapeutic/pharmacological subgroups and the 99 most-used individual drugs (all n > 200) on dry eye symptoms, correcting for age, sex, body mass index, and 48 comorbidities associated with dry eye. Results: Thirty-eight (64%) medication subgroups and fifty-two (53%) individual drugs were associated with dry eye symptoms (P < 0.05), after correction for age and sex only. A multivariable model correcting for comorbidities revealed highly significant associations between dry eye symptoms and drugs for peptic ulcer (particularly proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)), antiglaucoma and anticholinergic medications. Conclusions: This study underlines that medication use is highly informative of risk of dry eye symptoms. Correction for underlying comorbidities is critical to avoid confounding effects. This study confirms suggested associations between medications and dry eye symptoms at a population level and shows several new associations. The novel link between PPIs and dry eye symptoms deserves particular attention given how commonly they are prescribed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Dry eye
  • Epidemiology
  • Medication
  • Proton pump inhibitor
  • Risk factor


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