Xerophthalmia Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Xerophthalmia Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention


Xerophthalmia is a progressive eye disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin A. The word xerophthalmia comes from the Greek, xeros, which means dry and ophthalmos which means eye. So xerophthalmia can be interpreted as a dry eye condition due to dryness of the tear ducts.

This eye disease can cause night blindness or a more serious condition in the outer layer of the eye, namely the cornea. This disorder usually causes white spots on the eyes and ulcers on the cornea of ​​the eye.

Xerophthalmia Symptom

The initial symptoms of xerophthalmia are usually mild and get worse if the cause is not treated. Symptoms include dry eyes so that the conjunctiva (the outer thin layer of the eye) becomes dry, thickened and wrinkled.

This causes several other symptoms. At first, the patient will be night blindness. Furthermore, there will be white spots on the cornea which are known as Bitot spots. Corneal ulcers can also occur. In the final stages, some or all of the cornea may melt causing permanent blindness.

Xerophthalmia Reason

The cause of xerophthalmia eye disease is a deficiency or deficiency of vitamin A. The body cannot produce vitamin A by itself. So it takes vitamin A from the food consumed. Vitamin A is important for eye vision. 

Not a few pregnant women who experience night blindness. Infants and children have the highest risk of developing this eye disease compared to other age groups.

Some conditions that can interfere with the absorption of vitamin A include:

  • Consuming alcohol
  • Cystic fibrosis disease
  • Malabsorption disease
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Radioiodine treatment for thyroid cancer


In determining the diagnosis of xerophthalmia, the doctor will ask about the symptoms and dietary history of the sufferer. A physical examination of the eyes will also be carried out to assess the condition of the patient’s cornea and conjunctiva. 

When a corneal ulcer occurs, it can be diagnosed as a bacterial infection. So a vitamin A deficiency blood test is important to determine the cause of the corneal ulcer.

Xerophthalmia Treatment

Handling xerophthalmia can be by providing vitamin A supplement therapy. Supplements can be taken by mouth or injected. The dosage depends on age and general health condition of the body.

In more severe cases where corneal damage has already occurred, additional antibiotic therapy may be needed to prevent secondary infection. Covering the eye to protect against infection is also important until the wound heals.


Prevention of xerophthalmia can be done by avoiding vitamin A deficiency. The minimum daily dose of vitamin A for each person is different for each age group. The older the need for vitamin A more and more. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you need more vitamin A.

Eat foods that contain vitamin A, such as:

  • Fish heart
  • poultry
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Egg
  • Green leaf vegetables
  • Yellow or orange vegetables and fruit
  • Red palm oil

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