Pharmacists are being called upon to help the millions of Australians suffering dry eye disease in the wake of new research that shows 77% have experienced symptoms yet many do not have a clear understanding of the signs, symptoms or causes.
To help raise awareness about the prevalence of undiagnosed dry eye, Alcon has released a new consumer study suggesting that despite the prevalence of dry eye discomfort, only 11% of people would see an optometrist and 3% would speak to a pharmacist for advice in response to their eyes bothering them.
The research, which has been released in conjunction with the launch of Systane Complete preservative-free lubricant eye drops, suggests more consumer education is needed to help people understand their local pharmacy can help Australians recognise the symptoms and causes of dry eye, and provide advice and management solutions.
The research revealed the top symptoms for eye-discomfort include ‘tired’ (62%), ‘blurry’ (39%), and ‘dry’ (35%), yet when asked about why they experience discomfort, only 25% stated dry eye as a cause.
Pharmacist and managing partner at Capital Chemist Charnwood, Ms Samantha Kourtis, said pharmacy is a trusted and capable profession which can assist with eye health.
“It’s well known community pharmacists provide both advice and solutions for many health issues, however it seems consumers are less aware of our capacity to provide eyecare advice. I was particularly concerned to see in the research only 3% of people would speak to their pharmacist if they were experiencing eye-discomfort,” she said.
“Reducing burden on the health system is a key role for pharmacy. As such, a wider and more thorough understanding of the role we play is a clear gap in the eye health space that pharmacists have an opportunity to fill.”
Clinical optometrist of The Eye Health Centre, Mr Jason Holland, who specialises in dry eye management, said pharmacists play a crucial role in the Australian healthcare system.
“Lifestyle factors are contributing to eye-discomfort with long screen exposure. Pharmacists across Australia do have an opportunity to start conversations about eye health with patients and the treatment options available,” he said.
According to Alcon’s survey, in a typical day, nearly one third (32%) of Australians stare at a screen for more than seven hours. Screen time use is even higher for Australians aged between 18-34 as they spend a mean of eight hours a day.
While the survey found nearly 9 in 10 Australians (89%) feel that sight is the most crucial sense in everyday life, most aren’t checking in with their optometrist or local pharmacist when they feel eye discomfort.
Instead, Australians resort to taking a break from their screens, sleeping or rubbing their eyes to find relief. For those who are suffering from dry eye symptoms, one in five (21%) aren’t seeking help to resolve their condition.
Mr Rich Oliver, country franchise head, Vision Care, Alcon Australia and New Zealand said the survey results indicate Australians need better education when it comes to knowing where to turn for dry eye relief and treating eye-discomforts.
“Dry eye is a clear issue for Australians given the demands we put on our eyes, but there are a range of solutions available, like Systane Complete preservative-free lubricant eye drops,” he said.
“Patients can get quick relief and expert advice by visiting their local pharmacies and speaking to a pharmacist. The ongoing relationship between pharmacist and optometrist is key to helping Australians manage their eye health.”