Xerophthalmia is a common condition that may cause itching and burning, a sensation of sand inside the eye, an intermittent blurring of the vision and even double vision.

There is a series of treatments, medications and procedures that can alleviate the symptoms of xerophthalmia.

The tear film consists of three layers and tears are mainly produced in the lacrimal sac located beneath the bone of our eyebrows. Eyebrows act as windshield wipers that spread the tear film uniformly over the surface of the eye. Any eyelid conditions may affect the tear film and prevent it from functioning correctly.

The tear film is also an important focusing surface for the eye. Any problems which make the tear film irregular or unstable, may lead to problems with in focusing. A common complaint of the people with xerophthalmia is that when they read their vision is clear at first, but after 10 to 20 minutes it becomes blurry and they can no longer see clearly.

Causes of xerophthalmia

People living in dry climates are more likely to be affected by xerophthamia. The low levels of moisture in the atmosphere cause a quicker evaporation of the tear film from the eye’s surface. Dust, dirt, mascara and pollution may also worsen xerophthalmia.

Postmenopausal women tend to have reduced tear secretion. Certain medications may cause dry eyes, such as hormone replacement therapy, antihistamines and certain antidepressants.

You should always consult your doctor before you stop taking a prescribed medication, even if you think that it may have caused your xerophthalmia syndrome. Usually the cause is unknown but sometimes it may be related to other inflammatory conditions of the body.

People whose eyes do not close completely when they blink, or who blink rarely (for example people with Parkinson’s disease) are more susceptible to xerophthalmia. People who read a lot or who work many hours on a computer are more susceptible to the syndrome of xerophthalmia because when we read or concentrate we blink less often.

dry eye

Treatment of xerophthalmia

There are various treatments for xerophthalmia. Most patients only require artificial tears. Others may need to undergo surgery to fix a scarred eyelid or an eyelid that does not close properly.

Artificial tears are available in pharmacies and do not require a prescription. There are various brands and types of artificial tears. Most people need to test various tears before they find the one that works best for them Some tears are thicker than others. Some patients prefer thicker tears because they last longer. Others do not like them because they temporarily blur vision. For patients who regularly use artificial tears, doctors often recommend artificial tear solutions without preservatives.

If symptoms persist after the patient has tried various prescriptions, occluding the lacrimal punctum with plugs can be very useful. These may be temporary or permanent. Surgery is only required if patients have a scarred eyelid, or if patients have eyelids that do not close completely or are in the wrong place.

Xerophthalmia often accompanies an eyelid inflammation (blepharitis), so treatment should be combined with eye drops to treat xerophthalmia.