Management of dysfunctional tear syndrome: a Canadian consensus

Can J Ophthalmol. 2009 Aug;44(4):385-94. doi: 10.3129/i09-015.


Dry eye complaints are common, have a diverse etiology, and result from disruption of the normal tear film; hence, the term "dysfunctional tear syndrome." Recent research has shown that ocular surface disorders have an inflammatory origin, that inflammation of the ocular surface does not always manifest as "red eye," and that a patient does not have to have a systemic autoimmune disease to experience a local, ocular autoimmune event. A panel of Canadian cornea and external disease subspecialists met and developed a questionnaire and treatment algorithm to aid the comprehensive ophthalmologist. Management of ocular surface disorders begins with a review of the patient's medical history, with particular attention to medication use, and a thorough ophthalmological examination. Use of a simple questionnaire can aid in the diagnosis. A variety of treatment modalities are available, the most effective of which are those that target the underlying inflammatory process with the goal of restoring the normal tear film. A treatment algorithm is presented that matches the severity of symptoms with the intensity of treatment. Lifestyle modifications, regular hygiene, and tear supplements may be sufficient in patients with mild symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications (topical cyclosporin A, short courses of topical steroids, and [or] oral tetracyclines) and physical measures (punctal plugs, moisture-retaining eye wear) are implemented for those with moderate-to-severe symptoms. Autologous serum tears, scleral contact lenses, and surgery are reserved for patients with severe symptoms who have an unsatisfactory response to anti-inflammatory medications. Patients with lid disease or rosacea and those with allergic conditions should be identified during the initial encounter and should receive specific therapy to relieve their symptoms.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Canada
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / classification
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / metabolism
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tears / metabolism*