A greater amount of time spent engaging in sedentary behaviors may be linked with an increased risk of dry eye disease (DED), according to a study published in Ocular Surface. Excluding computer-related sedentary behavior from the analysis, however, removed any statistical significance from this association, the report shows.

Researchers included 48,418 participants (58% women; age range, 18-96 years) in the cross-sectional study. The team defined DED according to Women’s Health Study criteria, measured sedentary behavior with the Marshall Sitting Questionnaire, and used the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations for physical activity to modify the effect of exercise. 

Overall, DED was present in 9.1% of participants — and more time spent engaging in sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk of DED (odds ratio [OR], 1.015 per hour/day; 95% CI, 1.005-1.024, P =.004).

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This association was only significant in those engaging in less physical activity than recommended by WHO guidelines (OR, 1.022; 95% CI, 1.002-1.042; P =.027), and not in participants meeting WHO recommendations for physical activity (OR 1.011; 95% CI, 0.999-1.023; P =.076). When computer-related sitting was excluded, the relationship between sedentary behavior and DED no longer remained statistically significant (OR, 1.009; 95% CI, 0.996-1.023; P =.19).

“Computer use, an established risk factor for DED, likely explains part of the link between [sedentary behavior] and DED in this study,” according to the researchers. “Prolonged computer use reduces blink frequency, increases incomplete blinking, and lowers mucin concentrations in tears. These factors subsequently shorten tear film break-up times and accelerate tear evaporation.

Study limitations included a retrospective nature, possible recall bias, performing sedentary behavior and DED assessments at different visits, and failure to perform objective DED measurements.

This article originally appeared on Optometry Advisor