Antiinflammatory therapy for dry eye

Am J Ophthalmol. 2004 Feb;137(2):337-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2003.10.036.


Purpose: To present evidence establishing the relationship between inflammation and dry eye and supporting the use of antiinflammatory therapy for dry eye.

Design: Analysis of literature.

Methods: Research studies that evaluated inflammation in dry eye pathogenesis and clinical trials of antiinflammatory therapies for dry eye were reviewed.

Results: There is increasing evidence that decreased tear secretion, decreased tear turnover, and desiccation promote inflammation on the ocular surface. An increase in soluble mediators (cytokines and proteases) in the tear fluid, adhesion molecule expression by the conjunctival epithelium, and T-cell infiltration of the conjunctiva have been observed in dry eye patients. This inflammation appears to have a role in the pathogenesis of the ocular surface epithelial disease, termed keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), that develops in dry eye. Clinical improvement of KCS has been observed after therapy with antiinflammatory agents including corticosteroids, cyclosporin and doxycycline. Cyclosporin A emulsion was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as therapy for dry eye. Randomized placebo-controlled FDA clinical trials showed that cyclosporine A was superior to vehicle in stimulating aqueous tear production, decreasing corneal punctuate fluorescein staining, reducing symptoms of blurred vision, and decreasing artificial tear use in patients with KCS. No ocular or systemic toxicity was observed from this medication.

Conclusions: Ocular surface and lacrimal gland inflammation has been identified in dry eye that plays a role in the pathogenesis of KCS. Antiinflammatory therapy has efficacy for treating KCS. Cyclosporin A is the first FDA approved therapy for this indication. It improved signs and symptoms of KCS, and it is safe for long-term use.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Dacryocystitis / complications
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / drug therapy*
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca / drug therapy
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca / etiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine