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Xerophthalmia Information

Xerophthalmia is an abnormal dryness in the eyes caused most often by decreased tear function. When xerophthalmia is due to vitamin A deficiency, the condition begins with night blindness and dryness of the eye membranes and progresses to corneal xerosis, and, in the late stages, to keratomalacia. It is also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye syndrome. It can make the eyes lose their luster and, more importantly, can cause scratching and other damage to the eyes. Rarely seen in industrialized countries, xerophthalmia remains the leading cause of childhood blindness in the developing world. It is most commonly occurs in children during the ages of 3 to 6 years of age. It is an inflammation of the cornea (the clear covering of the eye) that is associated with nutritional deficiency resulting in general malnutrition, diarrhea and especially a deficiency of vitamin A. Xerophthalmia is more common with older age and in people who have immune disorders, such as lupus or Sjögren's syndrome, or who do not get enough vitamin A. The treatment depends on the cause. Artificial tears, which lubricate the eye, are the principal symptomatic treatment for dry eye. They are available over-the-counter as eye drops. Diet supplements rich in vitamin A or beta-carotene should be provided in high risk areas to prevent the condition. High doses of vitamin A should be avoided during pregnancy because of the risk of vitamin A embryopathy.

Causes of Xerophthalmia

The common causes and risk factor's of Xerophthalmia include the following:

  • A malfunction of the tear glands.
  • Dry eye syndrome usually occurs in people who are otherwise healthy.
  • A deficiency in Vitamin A.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosis, and other similar diseases.
  • It may also be caused by thermal or chemical burns.

Symptoms of Xerophthalmia

Some sign and symptoms related to Xerophthalmia are as follows:

  • A sensation of a foreign body in the eye and mild irritation.
  • Night blindness.
  • Progressing to severe sensitivity to light.
  • The conjunctiva and the cornea becomes dry (Xerosis) with the development of characteristic triangular or oval spots, called Bitot's spots.

Treatment of Xerophthalmia

Here is list of the methods for treating Xerophthalmia:

  • Vitamin A therapy and a protein-rich diet are essential.
  • Topical antibiotics are given to prevent secondary bacterial infection. Keratomalacia is irreversible and causes permanent corneal scarring.
  • Using humidifiers, wearing wrap-around glasses when outside, and avoiding outside windy and dry conditions may bring relief.


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