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Dry eye syndrome is a multifactorial disease that affects the eye's surface, particularly the tear film. It is characterised by altered tear composition, inflammation and distress of the superficial structures of the eye (cornea, conjunctiva and eyelids) and neurosensory abnormalities. This leads to eye discomfort and visual impairments.

Dry eye disease can have a major impact on people’s quality of life, with symptoms that can seriously hamper daily activities.

The most common symptoms of dry eye are:

  • eye discomfort and burning;
  • discomfort in exposure to light (photophobia);
  • foreign body sensation;
  • blurred vision;
  • difficulty in opening the eyes when waking up;
  • pain (in severe cases)

Redness, mucous hypersecretion and distress of the corneo-conjunctival epithelium are the most frequent clinical signs accompanying these symptoms.

Dry eye syndrome can be due to “extrinsic” causes (e.g. contact lens wear or exposure to dry, dusty air) or “intrinsic” conditions (e.g. tear glands dysfunction or eyelid abnormalities).

The main risk factors for dry eye syndrome are:

  • age (ageing leads to progressive atrophy of the tear glands);
  • gender (higher incidence of the disease in women between 40 and 60 years of age due to hormonal imbalances linked to the menopause);
  • prolonged use of certain medications (hormones, immunosuppressants, antihistamines, antihypertensives, antidepressants);
  • climatic and environmental factors (air conditioning, dry climate, wind, smoke and smog);
  • prolonged use of devices such as computers, tablets, television;
  • excessive and prolonged use of contact lenses;
  • nutritional deficiencies (vitamin A deficiency).

In general, to prevent dry eyes (or to alleviate the symptoms) it is important to keep the environment clean and humidified, avoid smoking, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water and take regular breaks when spending a lot of time in front of a screen.

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Dry eye is diagnosed through an eye examination, during which the doctor will perform all the necessary tests to assess the situation and establish the best treatment.

The tear film is usually studied by the specialist by means of a quantitative analysis of the tear produced (Schirmer test) and a qualitative analysis (tear film break-up test - BUT).
Distress of the cornea and conjunctiva can be detected with specific dyes commonly used by ophthalmologists (Fluorescein and Lissamine Green).


Treatment for dry eye syndrome involves different therapies depending on the cause and type of disorder.

Generally, treatment involves the use of eye drops or lubricating gels with a composition similar to tears (known as “artificial tears”) to help the eye stay moist and clean. Self-prescription of these products is discouraged, and a specialist examination by an ophthalmologist is recommended for a correct diagnosis of the condition and for the most appropriate treatment.

In some cases, protective contact lenses may be prescribed to protect the eye from rubbing against the eyelid. In special cases, the specialist may instead suggest surgery.