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Dry eyes

Roni M Shtein, MD
Section Editor
Jonathan Trobe, MD
Deputy Editor
Howard Libman, MD, FACP


Dry eye disease is a multifactorial disease of the tears and ocular surface that can result in ocular discomfort and visual impairment [1]. Dry eye is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eye syndrome, and dysfunctional tear syndrome.

The epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment options for dry eye will be reviewed here. Various conditions associated with dry eye are discussed separately. (See "Diagnosis and classification of Sjögren's syndrome" and "Allergic conjunctivitis: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis" and "Blepharitis".)


Prevalence — The prevalence of dry eyes has been estimated to be 5 to 30 percent in persons ≥50 years old, and it is expected to increase as the population continues to age [2-5]. Based on data from the National Health and Wellness Survey, 6.8 percent of the United States adult population (approximately 16.4 million people) has been diagnosed with dry eye disease [6]. The prevalence increases with age (2.7 percent in those 18 to 34 years old versus 18.6 percent in those ≥75 years old) and is higher in women than men (8.8 versus 4.5 percent). It is not affected by race, education, or location of residence.

Risk factors — Risk factors for dry eye disease include [2,7-10]:

Advanced age

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 10, 2017.
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