The common eye disease being exacerbated by lockdown

Eye doctors are urging people to seek treatment after seeing more cases of dry eye disease during lockdown.

They say the use of masks, more screen time and air-conditioning has led to new cases and patients suffering worsening symptoms.

"Unfortunately we're seeing a rapid increase in dry eye disease," Dr Margaret Lam, a leading Sydney optometrist, told 9News.

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Symptoms can include discomfort, red eyes, itchiness and gritty eyes.

"It's a bit like going to the beach and getting sand flicked in your eyes and then your eyes feeling gritty and sore," Professor Stephanie Watson from the University of Sydney said.

Dry eyes are more common in people over the age of 50 and women are three times more likely to suffer from symptoms.

Doctors say if the condition isn't properly managed it can lead to a complication called keratitis.

This results in eye surface damage, inflammation and can lead to blurry vision.

"It can be really debilitating for patients," Dr Lam said.

"Topical steroids can be effective but they have risks in the long-term of glaucoma, of cataract," Professor Watson said.

"Many patients have continued to suffer despite what's available."

From this week, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory has been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The daily eye drops usually cost about $900 a year, but with the subsidy each script will be $41.30 or $6.60 for concession card holders.

"The fact that it's subsidised on the PBS now is extremely welcome news," Dr Lam said.

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