Xerophthalmia (also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye syndrome) is an abnormal dryness in the eyes caused most often by decreased tear function. It can make the eyes lose their luster and, more importantly, can cause scratching and other damage to the eyes.

Symptoms of xerophthalmia include a sensation of a foreign body in the eye and mild irritation, progressing to severe sensitivity to light.

Xerophthalmia is more common with older age and in people who have immune disorders, such as lupus or Sjögren's syndrome, or who do not get enough vitamin A.

Treatment for xerophthalmia includes wetting drops called artificial tears. Lubricating ointments may be used in severe cases. Tiny plugs may be placed in the tear drainage ducts to help the tears remain on the surface of the eye.

Last Updated: April 7, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology

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