Symptoms and Signs of Dry Eye Syndrome

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 12/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a common problem of dry eyes. Types of dry eye syndrome are related to the underlying problem that leads to dry eyes: insufficient production of tears (also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca), poor retention of tears, or excessive evaporation of tears

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include

  • dry eyes,
  • gritty/scratchy or filmy feeling in the eyes,
  • burning or itching in the eyes,
  • blurred vision,
  • vision that varies with time of day,
  • feeling like something is in the eyes,
  • light sensitivity and pain,
  • excess tearing when the eyes become extremely dry or when exposed to wind,
  • intolerance to wearing contact lenses,
  • eye redness, and
  • discharge or crusty material on the eyelashes.

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome often worsen in dry climates, windy conditions, higher temperatures with lower humidity, and with prolonged use of your eyes (for example, reading, watching TV), and toward the end of the day.

What Is the Treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)?

The treatment for dry eye syndrome usually depends on the cause of the dry eyes. Prevention of triggers of dry eye syndrome as well as medications and sometimes surgery are used to treat the disorder. 

Lifestyle changes that can help prevent dry eye syndrome include:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid directly blowing air such as from air ducts, fans, and air conditioning
  • Avoid dusty areas 
  • Avoid excessively bright sunlight by using sunglasses 
  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Blink frequently 
  • Talk to your doctor about medications you take that may make dry eye syndrome worse 
  • Medications used to treat dry eye syndrome include:
  • Cyclosporine (Restasis
  • Lifitegrast (Xiidra)
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops
  • Artificial tears come in drops, moisturizing gels, and ointments

Your eye doctor may also suggest tear duct plugs or eyelid surgery if medications do not adequately treat dry eye syndrome.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.