All Children's Hospital Logo

Health Information Library

Parents > A to Z > X > A to Z: Xerophthalmia
A to Z: Xerophthalmia

A to Z: Xerophthalmia

May also be called: Dry Eye Syndrome; Keratitis Sicca; Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca; Xeroma; Xerophthalmus

Xerophthalmia (zeer-of-THAL-me-uh) is a condition in which an eye becomes abnormally dry because it can't maintain an adequate layer of tears to coat its surface.

More to Know

Tears are made up of a mixture of water, oil, and mucus. The oil helps keep tears from evaporating too quickly. The water helps clean the eye and wash away dust and other foreign particles. The mucus helps spread tears evenly over the surface of the eye (cornea). If an eye doesn't produce enough tears or produces tears with abnormal levels of oil, water, or mucus, the eye can feel dry and itchy. There also can be pain, periods of blurred or reduced vision, or cornea damage.

A number of conditions can cause xerophthalmia, including wind; dry air; working long hours on a computer; vitamin A deficiency; certain medications; and diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome (an immune system disorder).

Xerophthalmia is most common in young kids who have a vitamin A deficiency and older people (when eyes make fewer tears), but it can affect people of any age.

Keep in Mind

Most cases of xerophthalmia cause discomfort but don't result in any permanent vision loss. Depending on the cause and severity, several treatments are effective for xerophthalmia, including over-the-counter artificial tears or prescription eye drops.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

Related Articles
P    Eyes
T    Eyes
K    Glasses and Contact Lenses
P    Styes
K    Styes
T    Styes
T    Taking Care of Your Vision
P    Vision Facts and Myths
K    Why Do Eyes Water?
P    Your Child's Vision
K    Your Eyes
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2015 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and

Additional Info

Pocket Doc Mobile App
Maps and Locations (Mobile)
Programs & Services
For Health Professionals
For Patients & Families
Contact Us
Find a Doctor

All Children's Hospital
501 6th Ave South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 898-7451
(800) 456-4543

Use Normal Template
© 2015 All Children's Hospital - All Rights Reserved