Skip to Content

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).

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Stinging, burning, or itching in one or both eyes
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Eye pain when you look at light
  • Feeling like something is in your eye
  • Blurry eyesight or loss of vision
  • Not being able to cry or make tears when you are sad or upset

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.

Treatment for dry eye syndrome

may depend on what has caused it. You may need medicines to decrease pain and swelling, or treat an eye infection. You may also need medicine to help your eyes make more tears. Your healthcare provider may change the type of contact lens that you wear. You may need to stop wearing your contact lenses. Medicines that cause dry eyes may be stopped or changed. You may need surgery if other treatments do not work.


  • 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.
    Sources of Omega 3
  • 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 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 IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Dry Eye Syndrome (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptom checker

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.