Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye syndrome occurs when the eye doesn’t produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly.
This condition can appear in adults who don’t suffer from any other conditions or it can happen as a result of underlying conditions. In the first case, the tear gland doesn’t produce enough tears to cover the parts of the eye known as the conjunctiva and cornea.
Postmenopausal women and old people are more likely to develop dry eyes syndrome but it can also happen to young and middle aged people.
Dry eye syndrome may be the result of another condition. Some people are born with low tear production or none at all. This is known as alacrima abnormality. Xerophthalmia is another cause of dry eyes but unlike congenital alacrima which is present from birth, xerophthalmia develops over time. When this condition is present, the eye doesn’t produce any more tears. Xerophthalmia often occurs due to insufficient vitamin A in the diet. Most cases of xerophthalmia are present in newborns and children under nine.
Removal of the tear glands also leads to dry eyes. People who suffer from autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus erythematosus could develop dry eye syndrome.
Wegener’s Granulomatosis and relapsing polychondritis can be underlying conditions for dry eyes. People who have diabetes may have this condition too.
Decreased nerve sensitivity may be a cause, although this is currently under research.
Some of the drugs that can cause dry eyes :
- certain sedatives
- opiate painkillers
- birth control pills
- beta blockers
An injury of the eye is another cause. Dry eye syndrome can be a side effect of refractive surgery. Lastly, dry eyes can occur due to dry climate such as sitting for too many hours in a room with ventilation.
People who spend too long in front of the computer may occasionally suffer from dry eyes too.
The diagnosis for dry eyes is given by an eye doctor based on symptoms. There are certain tests that can measure the severity of the condition.