Pronounced: Kera-to-con-JUNK-tiv-eye-tis sick-ah
Keratoconjunctivitis is a condition in which the membranes on the surface of the eye known as the conjunctiva becomes red and inflamed. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca occurs when the surface of the eye becomes dry due to reduced tearing or poor-quality tears.
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There are 2 main reasons that keratoconjunctivitis sicca occurs:
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is more common in females. Other factors that may increase your chance of 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. The cause of the discomfort can be determined using specialized equipment to view the surface of the eye.
These special tests may include:
Treatment for keratoconjunctivitis sicca is often simple and effective. This involves keeping the eye moist and preserving the tears that are made naturally. Treatment methods used include:
It is not possible to prevent keratoconjunctivitis sicca. It is possible to prevent complications of keratoconjunctivitis sicca, such as infections, from developing. To help reduce the chance that the condition will worsen:
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 complications.
American Optometric Association
Eye Health—American Academy of Ophthalmology
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Cronau H, Kankanala RR, et al. Diagnosis and management of red eye in primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(2):137-144.
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/corneal-disorders/keratoconjunctivitis-sicca. Updated September 2014. Accessed December 9, 2015.
What is dry eye? American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/dry-eye. Updated March 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Michael Woods, 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.
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