Dry eye syndrome (DES) refers to a spectrum of ocular surface diseases with diverse and frequently multiple aetiologies. The common feature of the various manifestations of DES is an abnormal tear film. Tear film abnormalities associated with DES are tear deficiency, owing to insufficient supply or excessive loss, and anomalous tear composition. These categorizations are artificial, as in reality both often coexist. DES disrupts the homeostasis of the tear film with its adjacent structures, and adversely affects its ability to perform essential functions such as supporting the ocular surface epithelium and preventing microbial invasion. In addition, whatever the initial trigger, moderate and severe DES is characterized by ocular surface inflammation, which in turn becomes the cause and consequence of cell damage, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of deterioration. Progress has been made in our understanding of the aetiology and pathogenesis of DES, and these advances have encouraged a proliferation of therapeutic options. This article aims to amalgamate prevailing ideas of DES development, and to assist in that, relevant aspects of the structure, function, and production of the tear film are reviewed. Additionally, a synopsis of therapeutic strategies for DES is presented, detailing treatments currently available, and those in development.