What is the definition of Dry Eye Syndrome?

You need tears to moisten the eyes and to wash away particles that have gotten into your eyes. A healthy tear film on the eye is necessary for good vision.

Dry eyes develop when the eye is unable to maintain a healthy coating of tears.

What are the alternative names for Dry Eye Syndrome?

Keratitis sicca; Xerophthalmia; Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

What are the causes for Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye commonly occurs in people who are otherwise healthy. It becomes more common with age. This can occur due to hormonal changes that make your eyes produce fewer tears.

Other common causes of dry eyes include:

  • Dry environment or workplace (wind, air conditioning)
  • Sun exposure
  • Smoking or second-hand smoke exposure
  • Cold or allergy medicines
  • Wearing contact lenses

Dry eye can also be caused by:

  • Heat or chemical burns
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Use of eye drops for other eye diseases
  • A rare autoimmune disorder in which the glands that produce tears are destroyed (Sjögren syndrome)

What are the symptoms for Dry Eye Syndrome?

Symptoms may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Burning, itching, or redness in the eye
  • Gritty or scratchy feeling in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light

What are the current treatments for Dry Eye Syndrome?

The first step in treatment is artificial tears. These come as preserved (screw cap bottle) and unpreserved (twist open vial). Preserved tears are more convenient, but some people are sensitive to preservatives. There are many brands available without a prescription.

Start using the drops at least 2 to 4 times per day. If your symptoms are not better after a couple of weeks of regular use:

  • Increase use (up to every 2 hours).
  • Change to unpreserved drops if you have been using the preserved type.
  • Try a different brand.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you cannot find a brand that works for you.

Other treatments may include:

  • Fish oil 2 to 3 times per day
  • Glasses, goggles or contact lenses that keep moisture in the eyes
  • Medicines such as Restasis, Xiidra, topical corticosteroids, and oral tetracycline and doxycycline
  • Tiny plugs placed in the tear drainage ducts to help moisture stay on the surface of the eye longer

Other helpful steps include:

  • DO NOT smoke and avoid second-hand smoke, direct wind, and air conditioning.
  • Use a humidifier, particularly in the winter.
  • Limit allergy and cold medicines that may dry you out and worsen your symptoms.
  • Purposefully blink more often. Rest your eyes once in a while.
  • Clean eyelashes regularly and apply warm compresses.

Some dry eye symptoms are due to sleeping with the eyes slightly open. Lubricating ointments work best for this problem. You should use them only in small amounts since they can blur your vision. It is best to use them before sleep.

Surgery may be helpful if symptoms are because the eyelids are in an abnormal position.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Dry Eye Syndrome?

Most people with dry eye have only discomfort, and no vision loss.

What are the possible complications for Dry Eye Syndrome?

In severe cases, the clear covering on the eye (cornea) may become damaged or infected.

When should I contact a medical professional for Dry Eye Syndrome?

Call your provider right away if:

  • You have red or painful eyes.
  • You have flaking, discharge, or a sore on your eye or eyelid.
  • You have had an injury to your eye, or if you have a bulging eye or a drooping eyelid.
  • You have joint pain, swelling, or stiffness and a dry mouth along with dry eye symptoms.
  • Your eyes do not get better with self-care within a few days.

How do I prevent Dry Eye Syndrome?

Stay away from dry environments and things that irritate your eyes to help prevent symptoms.



Bohm KJ, Djalilian AR, Pflugfelder SC, Starr CE. Dry eye. In: Mannis MJ, Holland EJ, eds. Cornea. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 33.

Dorsch JN. Dry eye syndrome. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2019. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:475-477.

Goldstein MH, Rao NK. Dry eye disease. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.23.

  • Condition: Persistent Corneal Epithelial Graft Defects After Penetrating Keratoplasty
  • Journal: Vestnik oftalmologii
  • Treatment Used: Anterior Stromal Micropuncture
  • Number of Patients: 3
  • Published —
This article presents clinical observations of patients who developed persistent corneal graft erosion after penetrating keratoplasty who were treated with anterior stromal micropuncture.
  • Condition: Sjogren Syndrome associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Journal: European review for medical and pharmacological sciences
  • Treatment Used: Hydroxychloroquine, Vitamin D3, Omega-3, and Artificial Tears
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report describes a patient with Sjogren syndrome that was associated with their obsessive-compulsive disorder.