Tears are needed to lubricate the eyes and to wash away particles and foreign objects. 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
Dry eye usually 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 eye can also be caused by:
Symptoms may include:
Tests may include:
The first step in treatment is artificial tears. These come as preserved (screw cap bottle) and unpreserved (twist open vial). Preserved tears are more bottle) convenient, but some people are sensitive to preservatives. There are many brands available without a prescription.
Start using the drops at least 2-4 times per day. If your symptoms are not better after a couple of weeks of regular use:
Other medical treatments may include:
Other helpful steps include:
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.
Most people with dry eye have only discomfort, and no vision loss.
In severe cases, the clear covering on the eye (cornea) may be come damaged or infected.
Call health care provider immediately if:
Stay away from dry environments and things that irritate your eyes to help prevent symptoms.
Keratitis sicca; Xerophthalmia; Keratoconjunctivitis sicca
Lemp MA, Foulhs GN. The Diagnosis and Management of Dry Eye Disease. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane’s Ophthalmology. 2012 ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:vol 4; chap 14.
Peters E, Colby K. The Tear Film. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Foundations of Clinical Ophthalmology. 2012 ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:vol 2; chap 3.
Updated by: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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