Mechanisms of Visual Disturbance in Dry Eye

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Abstract

Dry eye has been believed to be a chronic, symptomatic ocular surface disease that affects vision in a limited manner, because it is difficult to detect visual or optical changes using standard visual acuity testing. In practice, common visual complaints associated with dry eye include fluctuating vision with blinking, blurred vision, glare, and eye fatigue. This review discusses our past and current understanding of visual disturbances in dry eye and the various tools available for assessing visual function or optical quality. Tear film instability and ocular surface damage are key factors in the core mechanism underlying dry eye. The mechanisms of these vision-related subjective symptoms of dry eye based on visual function, particularly wavefront aberrations or light scattering, and the core mechanism of dry eye are described. Tear film instability is associated with decreased stability of postblink higher-order aberrations, leading to “fluctuating vision with blinking” and with increased ocular forward light scattering, leading to “glare.” Ocular surface damage in the overlying optical zone (in the central corneal regions), is associated with increased higher-order aberrations and increased corneal backward light scattering that can lead to “blurred vision”. “Eye fatigue” occurs when patients with dry eye struggle to see things under such visual symptoms.

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