Fun fact: Our tears aren’t just salty water. They’re a precisely mixed cocktail of fatty oils, water, mucous, and more than 1,500 proteins, including, growth factors, antibodies, lipids, and mucins. Together, they form a nourishing film that blankets and protects our eyes. If the ratio of proteins falls out of balance, however, the film falls apart, and big trouble can follow in the form of dry eye disease (DED).
DED can cause pain, blurriness, and inflammation, can even injure your cornea, and recent studies demonstrate that the damage doesn’t stop there. They reveal that individuals with DED find it harder to perform simple tasks such driving or getting dressed; experience significant pain that interferes with social relationships; and report increased anxiety, depression, and poor overall health.
Experts estimate that more than 340 million adults globally and 34 million in the United States live with this condition.
Fortunately, individuals now have a few arrows in their quiver to help them fight back. In addition to artificial tears sold over-the-counter, prescription drugs administered with a dropper, like pharmaceutical giant Novartis’s Xiidra, which inhibits a molecule typically overexpressed in DED, and Allergan’s Restasis, which reduces inflammation, can help diminish symptoms.
Artificial tears and Xiidra, however, are more like Band-Aids than cures. For that, a small company called Oyster Point Pharma, in Princeton, NJ, is taking on that challenge and developing a nasal spray, called OC-01, which stimulates the trigeminal nerve in the nose. The trigeminal nerve belongs to the parasympathetic nervous system—the neurological master switch that can trigger natural tear film production and restore balance to it.
In other words, OC-01 may represent a cure for this common condition. With a weapon like this – currently in late-stage trials for FDA approval – DED may soon become a thing of the past.