Dry eye

Synonyms: Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, Dry eye syndrome

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Ophthalmology


Clinical Definition

Dry eye, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, has a literal definition: dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva (i.e., the membrane covering outer eye surface). It occurs when the eyes don't produce enough moisture, resulting in stinging, burning and irritation. Treatments ranging from artificial tears to surgery can relieve symptoms.


In Our Own Words

Dry eye, with the tongue-twisting medical name keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition in which the eye, normally bathed in moisture, does not have enough. An imbalance or deficiency in the tear system can lead to dry eye, as can inflammation or trauma to the eyelid and impaired blinking.

 

Dry eye is more common after the age of 65; more women are affected than men due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause and birth control pill use. Those with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are also more likely to be affected.

 

Certain medication can also reduce the output of tears being produced, including those for blood pressure and some antihistamines. Treatment options include artificial tear drops and ointments, a procedure to close the ducts that drain tears from the eyes or surgery to permanently close ducts that drain tears into the nose.

Relevant Conditions
Side Effects
  • Eye pain
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Feeling of foreign body in the eye
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sources
  • Harvard Health Publications. "Medical Dictionary of Health Terms.” http://www.health.harvard.edu. Accessed August 2013.
  • American Optometric Association. "Dry Eye." http://www.aoa.org. Accessed August 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Dry Eyes." http://my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed August 2013.
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