PubMed Health. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2011.
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.
Dry eye syndrome
Keratitis sicca; Xerophthalmia; Keratoconjunctivitis sicca
Last reviewed: November 8, 2010.
Dry eye syndrome is when the eye is unable to maintain a healthy layer of tears to coat it.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Dry eye syndrome often occurs in people who are otherwise healthy. It is more common with older age, because you produce fewer tears with age.
In areas of the world where malnutrition is common, vitamin A deficiency is a cause. This is rare in the United States.
Signs and tests
Reduced visual acuity
Tests may include:
Treatments may include:
Hot compresses or eyelash cleaning
Lubricating ointments (in more severe cases)
Medications such as Restasis, topical corticosteroids, and oral tetracycline and doxyccycline
Tiny plugs placed in the tear drainage ducts to help the tears stay on the surface of the eye
Wetting drops called artificial tears
Surgery may be used if the eyelids are in an abnormal position.
Most patients with dry eye have only discomfort, and no vision loss. With severe cases, the clear window on the front of the eye (cornea) may become damaged or infected.
Ulcers or infections of the cornea are serious complications.
Calling your health care provider
See your health care provider immediately if you have dry eyes and have:
A sudden increase in discomfort or redness
A sudden decrease in vision
There is no way to prevent dry eye syndrome. You can prevent complications by using wetting and lubricating drops and ointments.
- Tu EY, Rheinstrom S. Dry eye. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 4.23.
Review Date: 11/8/2010.
Reviewed by: Daniel E. Bustos, MD, MS, Private Practice specializing in Comprehensive Ophthalmology in Eugene, OR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The cornea is the clear layer covering the front of the eye. The cornea works with the lens of the eye to focus images on the retina.
Review Date: 8/14/2011.
Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.