Home > Health A – Z > Dry Eye

Dry Eye

A syndrome characterized by dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva. It is usually caused by a deficiency in tear production. Symptoms include a feeling of burning eyes and a possible foreign body presence in the eye.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Dry Eye

Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly.

In addition, inflammation of the surface of the eye may occur along with dry eye. If left untreated, this condition can lead to pain, ulcers, or scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. However, permanent loss of vision from dry eye is uncommon.

Dry eye can make it more difficult to perform some activities, such as using a computer or reading for an extended period of time, and it can decrease tolerance for dry environments, such as the air inside an airplane....Read more about Dry Eye NIH - National Eye Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Punctal plugs for dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, which affects 10% to 20% of adults, is a disorder of the eye's tear film and is associated with symptoms such as burning, foreign body sensation, and fluctuating vision. Punctal plugs are inserted into a small opening in the upper and/or lower eyelid. Seven randomized controlled trials (with a total of 305 participants and 601 eyes) were identified. These trials compared silicone and/or collagen punctal plugs to each other, no treatment, acrylic punctal plugs, or oral pilocarpine (a drug used to increase tear production). Punctal plugs provided symptomatic improvement and clinical outcomes also improved from baseline measurements. Adverse outcomes included epiphora (overflow of tears), foreign body sensation, eye irritation, and spontaneous plug loss. Although individual trials reported improvements among participants assigned to punctal plugs, these trials were too diverse to summarize the effects across all studies.

Eyedrops made from autologous serum as a treatment for dry eye

We conducted a wide range of searches for relevant trials in April 2013. We identified four randomized controlled trials with a total of 72 participants with dry eye from Chile, Australia and Japan. The trials compared autologous serum eye drops to traditional artificial tears for the treatment of dry eye. The results from the four trials could not be combined in analysis due to the variation in participant populations, follow‐up intervals, and incomplete reporting of treatment outcomes. None of the included trials reported outcomes for the primary outcome of this review, the change in participant‐reported symptoms after one month of treatment. Some improvements in participant‐reported outcomes and tear film stability were seen in two trials after two weeks, but not in the other two trials or at longer follow‐up periods. Autologous serum eye drops did not provide a benefit based on other clinical assessments of the surface of the eye compared to traditional artificial tears. Outcomes for quality or life and costs were not reported in any of the trials. One study reported that no serious harms were related to using autologous serum eye drops while the other studies did not discuss whether any adverse events occurred. Overall the results from these studies do not provide consistent information as to whether autologous serum eye drops are safe and effective for the treatment of dry eye. Future trials are needed using appropriate study designs to address participant‐centered outcomes, to determine the effects of autologous serum eye drops in the treatment of dry eye.

Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of sodium hyaluronate eye drops treating dry eye

Bibliographic details: Wei HL, Li ZZ, Li YF.  Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of sodium hyaluronate eye drops treating dry eye. Chinese Journal of Experimental Ophthalmology 2013; 31(5): 496-500 Available from: http://www.cjeo.org/Articles/Show.aspx?Mid=130515051323294&ID=898

See all (88)

Summaries for consumers

Punctal plugs for dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, which affects 10% to 20% of adults, is a disorder of the eye's tear film and is associated with symptoms such as burning, foreign body sensation, and fluctuating vision. Punctal plugs are inserted into a small opening in the upper and/or lower eyelid. Seven randomized controlled trials (with a total of 305 participants and 601 eyes) were identified. These trials compared silicone and/or collagen punctal plugs to each other, no treatment, acrylic punctal plugs, or oral pilocarpine (a drug used to increase tear production). Punctal plugs provided symptomatic improvement and clinical outcomes also improved from baseline measurements. Adverse outcomes included epiphora (overflow of tears), foreign body sensation, eye irritation, and spontaneous plug loss. Although individual trials reported improvements among participants assigned to punctal plugs, these trials were too diverse to summarize the effects across all studies.

Eyedrops made from autologous serum as a treatment for dry eye

We conducted a wide range of searches for relevant trials in April 2013. We identified four randomized controlled trials with a total of 72 participants with dry eye from Chile, Australia and Japan. The trials compared autologous serum eye drops to traditional artificial tears for the treatment of dry eye. The results from the four trials could not be combined in analysis due to the variation in participant populations, follow‐up intervals, and incomplete reporting of treatment outcomes. None of the included trials reported outcomes for the primary outcome of this review, the change in participant‐reported symptoms after one month of treatment. Some improvements in participant‐reported outcomes and tear film stability were seen in two trials after two weeks, but not in the other two trials or at longer follow‐up periods. Autologous serum eye drops did not provide a benefit based on other clinical assessments of the surface of the eye compared to traditional artificial tears. Outcomes for quality or life and costs were not reported in any of the trials. One study reported that no serious harms were related to using autologous serum eye drops while the other studies did not discuss whether any adverse events occurred. Overall the results from these studies do not provide consistent information as to whether autologous serum eye drops are safe and effective for the treatment of dry eye. Future trials are needed using appropriate study designs to address participant‐centered outcomes, to determine the effects of autologous serum eye drops in the treatment of dry eye.

Interventions for trachoma trichiasis, in‐turning of the upper eye lashes caused by a chronic infectious inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye that can lead to blindness

Trachoma is a form of chronic inflammation of the transparent mucous membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white of the eye (conjunctiva). It is a bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis that is associated with poverty and is most prevalent in hot dry areas. Repeated infections cause scarring of the conjunctiva of the upper eyelid, which causes the eyelid to turn in (entropion) so that the eyelashes touch the cornea at the front of the eye. This is known as trachoma trichiasis. Every movement of the eye or eyelids causes trauma to the corneal surface so that it eventually turns opaque and the person becomes blind. Improved facial cleanliness and environmental hygiene may reduce the spread of trachoma. Antibiotic treatment may also be useful but surgery to correct the eye lid deformity is the only treatment that is likely to be helpful in the late stages of the disease. The review authors searched the medical literature and identified seven randomised controlled studies (2331 participants) investigating surgical and non‐surgical treatments as a way of reducing the recurrence of trichiasis. Three studies compared different surgical interventions. These trials suggested that the most effective surgery requires full‐thickness incision and rotation of the edge of the eyelid. Community‐based surgery was more convenient for patients by reducing the time and expense of travelling to a conventional hospital and it did not increase the risk of complications or recurrence. Surgery performed by ophthalmologists and by integrated eye workers were both similarly effective. The addition of azithromycin treatment at the time of surgery did not reduce the recurrence of trichiasis in a single study (426 participants). Non‐surgical methods included removing the eye lashes (epilation) using electrolysis or cryotherapy and taping the eyelid back. One trial found that the use of double‐sided sticking plaster was more effective than removing the eye lashes as a temporary measure but the tape had to be replaced weekly. Destroying the lashes appeared to have low success rates and the equipment required is costly and can be difficult to maintain. The included studies were carried out in China, Gambia, Ethiopia and Oman.

See all (13)

Terms to know

Conjunctiva
A membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and also covers the front part of the eye. Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva.
Cornea
The transparent part of the eye that covers the iris and the pupil and allows light to enter the inside.
Lacrimal Glands
A gland that secretes tears. The lacrimal glands are found in the upper, outer part of each eye socket.
Ophthalmologist
A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating eye problems, including injury and disease.
Punctal Plugs
A punctal plug (tear duct plug) is a small medical device that is inserted into the tear duct (puncta) of an eye to block the duct. This prevents the drainage of liquid from the eye. They are used to treat dry eye.

More about Dry Eye

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Dry eye syndrome, Tear film insufficiency, Gritty eye, Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

Other terms to know: See all 5
Conjunctiva, Cornea, Lacrimal Glands

Keep up with systematic reviews on Dry Eye:

RSS

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...