Dry Eye Syndrome (Dry Eyes, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What are the complications of dry eye syndrome?

Most people with dry eye syndrome have nothing to worry about aside from an annoying inconvenience. Although the symptoms might make activities of daily living (e.g., reading, watching TV, driving) miserable, no long-term vision loss is to be expected.

For those with more severe dry eye syndrome, significant drying of the surface of the eye can lead to an increased risk of serious infections. Ultimately, scarring, thinning, and even perforation of the cornea may occur. As a result, vision, or even the eye itself, may be permanently lost.

What are the risk factors for dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is more common with increasing age, female sex, and Asian ethnicity. Menopause can increase the risk of dry eye syndrome. Paradoxically, postmenopausal women on hormone replacement therapy, especially estrogens alone, have a higher prevalence of dry eyes than postmenopausal women taking no hormones.

Occupational and environmental factors increasing risk include low humidity, high room temperature, wind exposure, pollution and poor air quality, smoking, and decreased blink rates due to sustained computer use or reading.

Diseases associated with dry eyes include vitamin A deficiency, autoimmune/connective tissue disease, hepatitis C infection, HIV infection, Sjögren's syndrome, sarcoidosis, diabetes mellitus, and androgen or estrogen deficiency.

Contact lens wear increases the risk of dry eye syndrome. Refractive surgery, especially LASIK, frequently causes dry eyes.

A diet low in omega-3 fatty acids or a diet with a relatively high amount of omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fatty acids can also increase the risk of dry eye syndrome.

Various medications including systemic chemotherapy, diuretics, antidepressants, antihistamines and beta-adrenergic blockers may cause dry eyes as a side effect of the medication.

Irregularities of the conjunctival surface as seen with pingueculae or pterygia, can cause dry eye symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2015
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