Pronounced: Kera-to-con-JUNK-tiv-eye-tis sick-ah
Keratoconjunctivitis is a condition in which the conjunctiva (the membranes on the surface of the eye) become red and inflamed. The most common form of this condition is keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This occurs when the surface of the eye becomes dry due to a lack of quality tears. This dryness in the eye causes mild irritation in some patients, but severe discomfort and even visual problems in others.
The pain from keratoconjunctivitis sicca can be eased with medical treatment, so it is important to contact your eye doctor if you think you might have this condition.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
There are two main reasons that keratoconjunctivitis sicca occurs. The first is that the eye no longer makes enough tears to keep the surface moist, and the front surface of the eye dries out. Alternatively, the eye does make enough tears, but they evaporate too quickly. In this case, the tears produced are of poor quality, not adequately coating the surface of the eye.
Almost anyone can experience this condition; in fact, most of the time, people with keratoconjunctivitis sicca are otherwise healthy. However, the following factors may increase your chance of developing keratoconjunctivitis sicca.
The main symptom of keratoconjunctivitis sicca is discomfort in the eye. This soreness can range from mild to severe. Some other symptoms of keratoconjunctivitis sicca include:
Most cases of keratoconjunctivitis sicca cause only discomfort. However, in severe cases, the dryness in the eye can lead to damage to the cornea. If this occurs, it is possible that vision may be permanently lost.
Most of the time, the diagnosis of keratoconjunctivitis sicca is made by an eye specialist. An ophthalmologist is a physician who specializes in diseases and disorders of the eye. He or she can quickly determine the cause of the discomfort by using specialized equipment to view the surface of the eye.
These special tests may include:
Treatment for keratoconjunctivitis sicca is often simple and very effective. This involves keeping the eye moist and preserving the tears that are made naturally. Treatment methods used for this goal include:
It is not possible to prevent keratoconjunctivitis sicca; however, it is possible to prevent complications of keratoconjunctivitis sicca—such as infections—from developing. To help reduce your chance that the condition will worsen, take the following steps:
Most cases of keratoconjunctivitis sicca are not serious, and while uncomfortable and irritating, pose no real danger to the eye. However, it is still important to receive evaluation and diagnosis to prevent any of the more dangerous consequences of this condition. As always, a prompt discussion with your doctor is the best prevention of long-term consequences.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Optometric Association
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Foulks GN. The evolving treatment of dry eye. Ophthal Clin N Am. 2003;16:23-35.
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. The Merck Manual. 2005. Merck website. Available at: http://www.merck.com.mrkshared/mmanual.section8.chapter96/96e.jsp . Accessed August 25, 2005.
Ophthalmic disorders not associated with systemic disease. In: Goldman L, ed. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. WB Saunders Company; 2004.
Red eye. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Practice. 6th ed. WB Saunders Company; 2002.
Last reviewed [Under Medical Review] by Eric L. Berman, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
What can we help you find?close ×