Xerophthalmia

Abnormality in which the secretion of tears is reduced, so that the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye are not sufficiently moist. The symptoms consist of irritation, pain and redness. The absence of lachrymal fluid may cause damage to the cornea. In one form of xerophthalmia, Shigren’s syndrome, the secretion of fluid by all the mucous membranes of the eye, nose and mouth is also disturbed. Apart from dry eyes, the mouth and nose are therefore also dry. This is an autoimmune disease. A less common cause is a paralysis of the facial nerve or vitamin A deficiency. Xerophthalmia is detected by examining the eye and measuring lachrymal secretion (Schirmer test). Filter papers are used to measure the quantity of lachrymal fluid formed over a set period. With Shigren’s syndrome, therapy consists of administering eye drops in order to moisten the eye; vitamin B complex is sometimes useful. The syndrome cannot be cured. If a deficiency of vitamin A is the cause, this vitamin can be administered.

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