Developing evidence-based guidance for the treatment of dry eye disease with artificial tear supplements: A six-month multicentre, double-masked randomised controlled trial
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PURPOSE: To assess the six-month therapeutic profiles of lipid and non-lipid-based artificial tear supplements in managing dry eye disease (DED). METHODS: Ninety-nine participants fulfilling the TFOS DEWS II diagnostic criteria for DED (64% females; mean ± SD age, 44 ± 16 years) were enrolled in a prospective, multicentre, double-masked, parallel group, randomised controlled trial. Participants instilled lipid-based nanoemulsion drops or non-lipid-based aqueous drops for six months, at least four times daily. Symptomology, tear film and ocular surface characteristics were assessed at Days 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180. RESULTS: Sustained reductions in OSDI, DEQ-5, and SANDE symptom scores from baseline were observed from Day 30 onwards in both groups (all p < 0.05) and decreased superior lid wiper epitheliopathy grades from Day 60 onwards (all p ≤ 0.01). Improvements in non-invasive tear film breakup time, and sodium fluorescein and lissamine green staining scores followed from Day 120 onwards in both groups (all p < 0.05). Tear lipid layer grades increased from Day 90 onwards only with the lipid-based drops, and with significantly greater improvement in those with suboptimal lipid layer thickness at baseline (grade ≤3; p = 0.02). By Day 180, 19% of participants no longer fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for DED. CONCLUSIONS: Over a six-month treatment period, improvements in dry eye symptomology preceded tear film and ocular surface changes with regular use of both lipid and non-lipid-based artificial tear supplements. Both formulations addressed most mild-to-moderate forms of aqueous deficient and evaporative DED, while evaporative cases benefitted preferentially from lipid-based supplementation. This represents a first step towards mapping DED therapeutic strategies according to disease subtype and severity.