Dry eye disease in the young: A narrative review

Fiona Stapleton, Federico G Velez, Charis Lau, James S Wolffsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Dry eye disease (DED), a multifactorial ocular disease that significantly impacts quality of life, is most commonly reported in adults. This review describes the prevalence, risk factors, diagnosis and management of DED in children. A literature search, conducted from January 2000-December 2022, identified 54 relevant publications. Using similar diagnostic criteria to those reported in adults, namely standardized questionnaires and evaluation of tear film homeostatic signs, the prevalence of DED in children ranged from 5.5% to 23.1 %. There was limited evidence for the influence of ethnicity in children, however some studies reported an effect of sex in older children. Factors independently associated with DED included digital device use, duration of digital device use, outdoor time and urban living, Rates of DED were higher in children with ocular allergy and underlying systemic diseases. Compared with similar studies in adults, the prevalence of a prior DED diagnosis or a diagnosis based on signs and symptoms was lower in children, but symptoms were commonly reported. Treatment options were similar to those in adults, including lifestyle modifications, blinking, management of lid disease and unpreserved lubricants in mild disease with escalating treatment with severity. Management requires careful exploration of symptoms, medical history and the diagnosis and management of ocular comorbidities such as allergy and anterior blepharitis. Appropriately powered population-based studies are required to understand the prevalence of and risk factors for DED in children. Development of age-appropriate thresholds for signs and symptoms of DED would support better diagnosis of disease and understanding of natural history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
JournalThe ocular surface
Early online date7 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • Adolescents
  • Diagnosis
  • Dry eye disease
  • Pediatric
  • Prevalence
  • Risk factors
  • Treatment


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