Conjunctival xerosis is a common eye disorder that is primarily caused by a deficiency of vitamin A. It is more prevalent in developing countries, where malnutrition and limited access to proper healthcare contribute to its occurrence. Conjunctival xerosis is a condition that affects the conjunctiva, the thin transparent membrane that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. It is characterized by dryness and inflammation of the conjunctiva, leading to a range of uncomfortable symptoms. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and integrity of the conjunctiva, and its deficiency can lead to dryness and damage.
The most common symptom includes –
• Dryness in eyes
• Gritty or sandy sensation
• Itching & feeling of something foreign in the eye.
• Red and inflamed eyes
• Excessive tearing as a compensatory response.
In severe cases, the conjunctiva may become thickened, leading to scarring and visual impairment.
Conjunctival xerosis is primarily caused by a deficiency of vitamin A. This deficiency can occur due to inadequate dietary intake of vitamin A-rich foods, impaired absorption of vitamin A from the intestines, or increased vitamin A requirements during periods of rapid growth or illness.
In addition to vitamin A deficiency, other factors such as exposure to dry and dusty environments, contact lens use, and certain medications can contribute to the development of conjunctival xerosis.
There are different types of conjunctival xerosis, depending on the severity of the condition. These include –
• Stage 1: Mild conjunctival xerosis characterized by dryness and minimal inflammation.
• Stage 2: Moderate conjunctival xerosis with increased dryness, redness, and inflammation.
• Stage 3: Severe conjunctival xerosis accompanied by thickening of the conjunctiva, scarring, and potential visual impairment.
Risk Factors –
Several factors can increase the risk of developing conjunctival xerosis, including –
• Malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency
• Living in areas with limited access to healthcare
• Poor hygiene practices
• Exposure to dry and dusty environments
• Chronic diseases that affect nutrient absorption, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
If left untreated, conjunctival xerosis can lead to various complications, including corneal ulcers, corneal scarring, and visual impairment.
The dryness and inflammation of the conjunctiva can impair the production and distribution of tears, increasing the risk of corneal damage and infections.
A diagnosis of conjunctival xerosis is typically made through a comprehensive eye examination by an ophthalmologist. The doctor will evaluate the symptoms, examine the conjunctiva, and may perform additional tests such as a Schirmer test to measure tear production or a conjunctival impression cytology to assess the health of the conjunctival cells.
The primary treatment for conjunctival xerosis involves correcting the underlying cause, which is usually vitamin A deficiency.
• This can be achieved through vitamin A supplementation and dietary modifications to include foods rich in vitamin A, such as carrots, spinach, and liver.
• Artificial tears and lubricating eye drops may also be prescribed to alleviate dryness and provide symptomatic relief.
• In severe cases, surgical interventions such as conjunctival grafting or amniotic membrane transplantation may be required to restore the health of the conjunctiva.
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