What to know about keratoconjunctivitis sicca

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS, is a condition in which the eyes fail to produce adequate tears or retain a protective layer of moisture. KCS is sometimes referred to as “dry eye syndrome” by doctors.

KCS can irritate and irritate the eyes, causing itching, burning, and grittiness. Because insufficient lubrication modifies how light passes through the eyes and onto the retina, the condition can also impact a person’s eyesight.

The symptoms of KCS are described in this article. We also go through some of the risk factors for KCS, as well as diagnostic and treatment options.

What is it?

keratoconjunctivitis sicca

Dry eye syndrome, often known as KCS, is a prevalent chronic condition that affects tear production.

Tears are made up of three components: oil, meibum, and water. These ingredients work together to preserve and nourish the eye’s surface. The oil inhibits moisture evaporation, while the meibum helps the tear to distribute evenly throughout the surface of the eyes. In KCS, a person’s tears are either insufficient or of low quality, lacking oil or meibum.

Tears are necessary for good eye health. They serve a variety of purposes, including:

  • reducing the risk of infection
  • cleansing foreign matter from the surface of the eyes
  • lubricating the eyes

The conjunctiva and cornea become dry as a result of KCS. The membrane that covers the whites of the eyes and the inner eyelids is known as the conjunctiva. The cornea protects the iris and pupil by being a thin, protective coating.

Symptoms

Eye discomfort is the most common symptom in people who have KCS. The type and level of irritation may vary from one individual to the next.

KCS can cause the following symptoms:

  • eyes that tear readily
  • blurred or double vision
  • tired eyes after reading
  • discomfort when wearing contact lenses
  • eye inflammation and redness
  • a stinging or burning sensation in the eyes
  • a feeling of dryness or grittiness in the eyes
  • stringy mucus in or surrounding the eyes
  • waking up with the eyelids stuck together
  • difficulty keeping the eyes open
  • eye sensitivity to smoke, wind, or light

Living with KCS may be difficult. Chronic pain sufferers may develop anxiety or depression and retreat from their normal daily activities. Those who have vision impairments may be unable to drive, read, or operate a computer, leading to frustration and a sense of hopelessness.

Risk factors

The following are some of the causes and risk factors that enhance a person’s chances of having KCS:

  • Age: Most people over the age of 65 experience some symptoms of KCS.
  • Gender: KCS is more common among women than men. This is mainly due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, menopause, or as a result of taking hormonal contraceptives.
  • Medications: Certain medications can reduce tear production, including:
  • Medical conditions: The following can contribute to the development of KCS:
  • Environmental conditions: Exposure to the following can increase tear evaporation, resulting in KCS:
    • smoke
    • wind
    • low humidity environments
  • Other factors: Some other factors that can contribute to KCS include:
    • not blinking regularly when using a computer screen
    • wearing contact lenses
    • refractive eye surgery, such as laser eye surgery
    • poor tear quality — if a person’s tears are deficient in oil or meibum, they will not spread over the cornea

Diagnosis

A full eye examination will be performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to diagnose KCS, which will involve assessing the quantity and quality of tear production.

The following items may be included in the evaluation:

  • Eyelid and cornea evaluation: The doctor examines the eyelid and cornea using a bright light and magnification.
  • Testing the quantity and quality of tears: In order to study tear flow and identify any changes to the eyes’ surface caused by inadequate tears, the doctor may inject a specific dye into the eyes.
  • Taking a medical history: This will help the doctor determine if the person has risk factors for KCS.
  • External examination: The doctor looks at the structure of the eye, including the eyelid and blink dynamics.

Diagnosis

The general goal of KCS therapy is to keep the eyes moisturized and dryness to a minimum. However, depending on the underlying reason, the particular therapy method will differ.

To keep the eyes lubricated, doctors employ four methods. They are as follows:

  • Using artificial tears: Over-the-counter artificial tears solutions are a first-line treatment for people with mild KCS. People should choose preservative-free solutions, as they contain fewer additives that can irritate the eyes.
  • Conserving tears: A doctor may block the tear ducts with removable silicone plugs or a permanent surgical procedure. Both methods slow down tear drainage, meaning the tears remain in the eyes for longer.
  • Increasing tear production: An optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend methods for increasing tear production. Examples include taking prescription eye drops or taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
  • Treating inflammation and infection: An optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend one or more of the following treatments for inflammation and infection of the eyelids or eye surfaces:
    • antibiotic eye drops
    • oral antibiotics
    • warm eye compresses
    • eyelid massage
    • mild steroid drops

The drug cyclosporine (also known as lifitegrast) decreases inflammation in the eyes and may also improve tear production. After using cyclosporine eye drops, many people see a considerable improvement in their KCS symptoms.

A scleral lens is a type of contact lens that a doctor may suggest in particular instances. This lens holds a reservoir of fluid behind it, allowing the cornea to recover and avoid drying out. A scleral lens is significantly bigger than a conventional contact lens. It protects both the cornea and the sclera, the white component of the eye.

Complications that might occur

KCS is unpleasant for most people, although it does not cause issues.

Severe KCS, on the other hand, may result in the following:

  • corneal abrasions, ulcers, and erosion
  • scarring of the eye
  • deterioration of vision
  • increased light sensitivity
  • severe pain
  • eye infections
  • bacterial keratitis

KCS can be an indication of another health concern, therefore anybody who has eye difficulties should see a doctor right away for a proper diagnosis.

Conclusion

The medical name for dry eyes is KCS. Although KCS normally causes only little discomfort, severe instances can lead to corneal damage that lasts a lifetime. Eye irritation in the form of burning, itching, or grittiness is the most common symptom. Anyone experiencing symptoms should see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment options.

The majority of therapies try to increase eye lubrication, although they differ depending on the source of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. Medication may also be given to address KCS problems such as eye irritation and infection.

Sources:

  • https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/dry-eye?sso=y
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/keratoconjunctivitis-sicca-symptoms-and-treatment
  • https://www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/dry-eye-syndrome-ppp-2018
  • https://www.notadryeye.org/all-about-dry-eye-syndrome/symptoms-of-dry-eye-syndrome-and-related-conditions

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