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Dry Eye Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common eye condition that occurs when the eyes are unable to produce enough tears or when tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to discomfort, irritation, and in severe cases, damage to the cornea. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for dry eye syndrome.

What is dry eye?

Dry eye syndrome is a condition that impacts the tear film, consisting of three layers that cover and safeguard the eyes' surface. A smooth and stable tear film is crucial for clear and comfortable vision. Disruptions in the tear film can result in unpleasant symptoms such as burning, itching, excessive tearing, or blurred vision.

Numerous factors can interfere with the proper functioning of the tear film and contribute to dry eye. This is why healthcare professionals view dry eye as a multifaceted condition with various causes and risk factors. Identifying the underlying issue responsible for your symptoms may require thorough investigation due to the complexity and multitude of potential causes. If you're experiencing dry eye, seeking care from an ophthalmologist or optometrist is essential for effectively managing the condition.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome manifests through a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild irritation to severe discomfort. Common symptoms include:

  1. Dryness and Grittiness: Individuals with dry eye syndrome often experience a persistent sensation of dryness or grittiness in their eyes.

  2. Burning or Stinging Sensation: The eyes may feel as if they are burning or stinging, particularly in environments with low humidity.

  3. Excessive Tearing: Paradoxically, some individuals may experience excessive tearing as a result of the eyes' attempt to compensate for inadequate tear production.

  4. Redness and Inflammation: Dry eye syndrome can cause redness and inflammation of the eyes, giving them a bloodshot appearance.

  5. Sensitivity to Light: Increased sensitivity to light, known as photophobia, is another common symptom of dry eye syndrome.

  6. Blurred Vision: Blurring of vision may occur, particularly during prolonged periods of reading, computer use, or other visually demanding tasks.

  7. Difficulty Wearing Contact Lenses: Individuals who wear contact lenses may find them uncomfortable to wear due to insufficient lubrication of the ocular surface.

Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome

Several factors contribute to the development of dry eye syndrome, including:

  1. Aging: Tear production tends to diminish with age, making older adults more susceptible to dry eye syndrome.

  2. Environmental Factors: Exposure to dry or windy conditions, air conditioning, and indoor heating systems can accelerate tear evaporation and exacerbate dry eye symptoms.

  3. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases (e.g., Sjögren's syndrome), diabetes, thyroid disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis, can affect tear production and quality.

  4. Medications: Some medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and hormonal therapies, may reduce tear production as a side effect.

  5. Prolonged Screen Time: Extended use of digital devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets can lead to reduced blinking and increased tear evaporation, contributing to dry eye syndrome.

Treatment Options for Dry Eye Syndrome

The treatment of dry eye syndrome aims to alleviate symptoms, improve tear production and quality, and prevent complications. Treatment options may include:

  1. Artificial Tears: Over-the-counter artificial tear drops or lubricating eye gels can help supplement natural tear production and relieve dryness and discomfort.


  1. Prescription Medications: In some cases, prescription medications such as corticosteroid eye drops, immunosuppressants, or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and improve tear production.


  1. Tear Duct Plugs: Small silicone or gel plugs may be inserted into the tear ducts to block drainage and conserve natural tears on the ocular surface.

  2. Punctal Cautery: In cases where tear duct plugs are ineffective, punctal cautery, a procedure that permanently seals the tear ducts, may be performed to prevent tear drainage.

  3. Lifestyle Modifications: Simple lifestyle changes such as taking regular breaks from digital screens, using a humidifier to add moisture to the air, and wearing sunglasses outdoors can help reduce dry eye symptoms.

  4. Nutritional Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements, may help improve tear quality and reduce inflammation in the eyes.



Dry eye syndrome is a common ocular condition that can cause discomfort and affect quality of life. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for dry eye syndrome, individuals can take proactive steps to manage their condition effectively. If you experience persistent dry eye symptoms, it is important to consult with an eye care professional for proper diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations.


  1. Dry Eye (no date) National Eye Institute. Available at:  (Accessed: 18 March 2024).

  2. Golden, M.I. (2023) Dry Eye syndrome, StatPearls [Internet]. Available at:  (Accessed: 18 March 2024).

  3. professional, C.C. medical (no date) Dry eye: Symptoms, common causes & treatment, Cleveland Clinic. Available at:  (Accessed: 18 March 2024).

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