Dry Eyes and Mouth

Welcome to our decision guide on persistent and long standing dryness of the eyes and/or mouth, a condition often called "SICCA syndrome." The name comes from the Latin word, "siccus" which means "dry."

Brief symptoms of eye dryness may be due to air blowing near your eyes, an environment with dry air (as with indoor heating), smoke or dust exposure. Dryness can complicate other eye conditions, such as eyelid disorders and bulging of the eyes (as may occur with an overactive thyroid). Temporary dryness of the mouth may accompany nervousness, anxiety and breathing through the mouth (as many people do when they sleep). Also many medications can make the mouth dry.

This guide will cover the most common reason for dry eyes and dry mouth. While these symptoms are more common among persons who are older, they are not inevitable; while tear production may decline with advancing age, symptoms are often not solely related to aging. In fact, plenty of elderly people have perfectly normal tear and saliva production.

Please keep in mind that this information cannot replace a face-to-face evaluation with your own health care provider. It is meant to provide helpful information while you are awaiting further evaluation, or to supplement what you may have already learned after evaluation with your doctors.

Click here to start with some general information.

  • Dryness of the eyes and/or mouth is common, especially among persons as they age; however, age alone is frequently NOT the only reason and other causes are often quite treatable or reversible.

  • Fortunately, serious or dangerous causes of dryness of the eyes and mouth are rare.

  • If you have significant discomfort in the eyes, especially when you blink, you should see you eye doctor right away.

  • Treatment for dry eyes usually starts with simple things: a humidifier to keep the air moist, lubricating eye drops and an evaluation to determine the cause (For severely dry eyes, small, plastic plugs can be inserted near the eyelid to prevent tears from draining away as quickly and cause more moisture to remain on the eye surface.).

  • Treatment for dry mouth usually starts with simple things as well: searching for a cause (such as certain medications), frequent sips of water or ice, and a fluoride toothpaste and rinse to prevent cavities (which are more common in people with significantly reduced saliva).

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