Finding the genetic cause of dry eye syndrome

Research details

  • Type of funding: New Lecturers' Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Jelle Vehof
  • Institute: King's College London
  • Region: London
  • Start date: January 2017
  • End Date: February 2018
  • Priority: Causes
  • Eye Category: Corneal & external


Dry eye syndrome is a common condition in which the eye doesn’t produce enough tears, or the tears evaporate too fast. It affects up to 1 in 3 people and is more common with age.

Symptoms of dry eye include pain or discomfort and blurred vision. It can damage the eye’s surface and cause problems with reading, driving and working. People with dry eye report a quality of life that’s similar to having angina.

Dr Vehof and team have found from previous research with a large group of twins that around 6-7 out of 10 cases of dry eye are due to the environment and the rest are linked to genetics. So in this study the team is aiming to find genetic variations that are common to dry eye.

The team will look at the whole genetic code in two large groups of participants, from the UK Adult Twin Registry (5000 people) and a Dutch study called LifeLines (15,600 people). There is already lots of demographic and health information about the participants, and the team will compare the genomes of participants with dry eye to those without.

At the moment dry eye is treated with ‘artificial tears’ but they don’t cure the condition and need lifelong use and visits to the ophthalmologist. Results from the study could point to specific targets for treatment that could prevent or cure this common cause of poor eye health.