Xerophthalmia - Symptoms, causes and treatment – ​​Alodokter

Xerophthalmia is an eye disease caused by vitamin A deficiency which is characterized by dry eyes. Without treatment, this disease tends to get worse over time, even causing serious damage to the cornea of ​​the eye.

The main cause of xerophthalmia is a lack of vitamin A, which is needed to nourish the eye, including the clear layer on the surface of the eye (cornea). Without vitamin A, the lubricant of the eyeball will also decrease, so that the eyes become dry.

Symptoms of Xerophthalmia

Symptoms of xerophthalmia are initially mild, but will get worse if the patient's vitamin A intake is not met. Lack of vitamin A can make the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that lines the eyelids and eyeball, become dry, thick, and wrinkled. This is what triggers the emergence of early symptoms of xerophthalmia.

This condition will be felt as a symptom of dry eyes by the sufferer. Symptoms that will be felt by sufferers of xerophthalmia due to dry eyes are:

  • Eyes itchy.
  • Like something stuck in the eye.
  • A stinging or burning feeling in the eye.
  • Red eye.
  • Night blindness.
  • Vision becomes blurry.
  • Eyes are more sensitive to light.

When xerophthalmia gets worse, blisters will appear, known as Bitot's spots. If left unchecked, the patient's eye condition can get worse, marked by the appearance of ulcers or corneal ulcers. This is dangerous because it can cause permanent blindness in the patient.

When to go to the doctor

You are advised to immediately consult a doctor if you find it difficult to see clearly, even if it is only felt at night or when the lighting in the surrounding area is dim.

Children are a group that is quite susceptible to xerophthalmia. Therefore, the need for vitamin A in children must be fulfilled. Apart from food, parents need to take their children to the posyandu during the months of giving vitamin A for free, namely February and August, to get vitamin A supplements.

Please note, children who are exposed to measles are also at risk of xerophthalmia. Immediately take him to the doctor if symptoms of measles appear, such as a rash on the skin, so that measles can be quickly resolved and xerophthalmia can be prevented.

Causes of Xerophthalmia

Xerophthalmia is caused by a lack of vitamin A. Please note, the body cannot produce vitamin A on its own. Under normal conditions, vitamin A can be obtained from food, both from animal and plant foods.

Xerophthalmia is more prone to be experienced by children and pregnant women because they both need more vitamin A. In addition, people who have impaired absorption of vitamin A are also at risk for xerophthalmia. There are several other conditions that make it harder for a person's body to absorb vitamin A, including:

  • suffering from chronic diarrhea cystic fibrosis, giardiasis, Celiac disease, and cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Undergoing thyroid nuclear therapy treatment for thyroid cancer treatment.
  • Have an alcohol addiction.

Xerophthalmia diagnosis

At the beginning of the examination, the doctor will ask for complaints that are disturbing and affect the patient's eyes. The doctor will also ask about the patient's daily eating habits and patterns. After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination, especially on the patient's eyes.

The doctor may also recommend investigations to determine the disease that can cause a person to be deficient in vitamin A. In addition, the doctor will also perform blood tests to check levels of vitamin A or retinol.

Treatment and Complications of Xerophthalmia

In the early stages of treatment, the doctor will provide vitamin A supplements, either taken orally or injected into the body of xerophthalmia sufferers. Giving vitamin A is preferred to be given to patients who have been diagnosed with short-sightedness or night blindness (night blindness).

Vitamin A supplements aim to eliminate night blindness and help the eyes produce fluids to lubricate the eyes again.

If xerophthalmia causes corneal damage, the doctor will give antibiotics to prevent further infection. Then, there is a possibility that the patient's eyes will be closed to protect the eyes until the blisters are completely healed.

In addition to getting vitamin A supplements, sufferers need to undergo nutritional improvements by eating foods rich in vitamin A, such as:

  • Animal foods, such as beef liver, chicken, salmon, tuna, mackerel, milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs.
  • Plant foods that include spinach, lettuce, and carrots, as well as fruits, such as oranges, papaya, and watermelon.

Xerophthalmia needs to be treated appropriately because of the risk of causing further damage to the eye. If xerophthalmia continues and is not treated properly, nerve and eye tissue damage will occur, causing permanent blindness.

Xerophthalmia Prevention

Xerophthalmia can be prevented by ensuring that the daily requirement of vitamin A is met, especially through the food consumed daily. If needed, someone who has impaired absorption of vitamin A, such as alcoholics, as well as people with diabetes cystic fibrosis and liver cirrhosis, can take vitamin A supplements as recommended by a doctor.

The daily intake of vitamin A needed depends on age and gender. Adult men need a daily intake of vitamin A as much as 3000 units, while adult women need as much as 2310 units of vitamin A per day. For pregnant women, the daily requirement of vitamin A is 2565 units.

The daily intake of vitamin A needed by children is about 2000 units for children under 13 years old, 1320 units for children under 8 years old, and 1000 units for children aged 1-3 years.

To reduce the risk of your child getting xerophthalmia, you can also take children aged 0-5 years to the posyandu regularly, especially to take part in the government's vitamin A program.