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Dry Eye Syndrome


Dry eye syndrome happens when the eye has trouble keeping moisture. This may be caused by a lack of tears or having tears that cannot moisturize the eye. It may also happen when tears leave the eye too quickly. Dry eye syndrome may also be called dry eye disease or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS).


Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your dry eyes do not get better with treatment or get worse.
  • You have thick, yellow drainage from one or both eyes.
  • Your eyelids or skin around your eyes is red and swollen.
  • You have changes in your vision.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicine may be given to decrease pain or swelling, or treat an eye infection. You may also need medicine to help your eyes make more tears. These medicines will be given as eyedrops.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Use artificial tears, gels, and lubricating ointments as directed. They are available without a doctor's order. These products can replace tears and help add moisture to your eyes. Ask your healthcare provider how often to use these products. Also ask where to buy them.
  • Apply a warm compress to your eyelids as directed. Use a soft washcloth soaked in warm water. Leave the compress on your eyelids for 5 minutes. Gently massage your eyelids after you remove the compress. These actions may help open your tear glands. Your tear glands can make oil that will help keep tears and moisture on the eye's surface.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses that cover the sides of your eyes and fit close to your face. These will protect your eyes from dry air. They may also help keep moisture in your eyes.
  • Use a humidifier in your home. A humidifier may help keep moisture in the air and prevent dry eyes.
  • Take vitamins and supplements as directed. Certain vitamins and supplements may help decrease eye dryness. Examples include fish oil and vitamin A. Ask your healthcare provider what supplements you need and how often to take them.
  • Eat foods with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Examples include salmon, tuna, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve dry eyes. Ask your healthcare provider for a list of foods that contain fatty acids and how much you should eat each day.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Smoke from cigarettes and cigars can make dry eyes worse. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.