What to Know About Xerophthalmia

Xerophthalmia is a medical condition which is witnessed due to the deficiency of vitamin A.  This condition is mostly reported in infants who are not provided with food rich in vitamin A and in those children who eat very minimal vegetables. Peak of this disease is seen in 2-5 years of age group.

This disorder is also reported in other eye infections like burns, trachoma, and rheumatoid intake of a few drugs for instance beta-blockers and some cases are often idiopathic as well.

Xerophthalmia Symptoms

In this medical condition the conjunctiva becomes dry and dull. Early signs of xerophthalmia include dry conjunctiva and night blindness. The cornea turns dry and opaque (as the transparency is no more seen). In multiple cases, corneal perforation, ulceration and bulging out of some parts of eyes are also seen.

On study, small plaques called Bitot’s spots are also formed, which are grey in color. These spots vanish on administration of vitamin A doses. Though, these spots are also witnessed in some healthy individuals.

Different Stages of Xerophthalmia

Primary Stages

The first occurrence of conjunctival xerophthalmia is the result of Bitot’s spots which then leads to corneal xerosis. Up to this phase, the condition is entirely curable and reversible. After this stage, corneal ulceration is reported that results in the stage called keratomalacia, in which the cornea gets excessively soft.

Secondary Stage

The secondary stage of night blindness is associated with dryness of conjunctiva and later of cornea. Photophobia also occurs and often lusterless hair and dry mouth is also seen as the symptoms.

Clinical Diagnosis

The clinical examination almost confirms the diagnosis. Nonetheless, the mostly used clinical technique is to identify the Tear film break up time (BUT). It is refer to as the break between a complete blink of eye and the appearance of initial dry spot on the cornea. The general stipulated time is 15-30 seconds. If the time appears to be less than 10 seconds, it signals high deficiency.

Other tests conducted are Rose bengal staining, Schirmer 1 test, and tear osmolality test. Scraping from the Bitot’s spot manifests the presence of xerosis bacteria.

Xerophthalmia Treatment

Vitamin A doses are administered to rectify the deficiency. Antibiotic ointments are often suggested to control the secondary infection. Substitutes of tear are also recommended.

Xerophthalmia Precautions

Patients should eat lot of dark green leafy vegetables and milk or mild products. The things to avoid are wind, heat, and direct and strong light.