By Dr. Weinstein
What is KCS?
KCS (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca), also known as dry eye disease, is a condition where the cornea is inflamed due to insufficient tear production. The disease can cause corneal ulcers, scarring, and also pigmentation of the cornea. The cornea is the clear covering of the eye and it needs adequate tear production to keep the eye lubricated, to wash away foreign objects and bacteria, and also to distribute nutrients. Typically this disease has been seen more in female dogs than males. Breeds that are more commonly affected are: West Highland Terriers, English Bulldogs, pugs, Shih Tzu’s, Cocker Spaniels, and sometimes German Shepherds.
What is the cause?
The cause is often an underline immune-mediated disease. Sometimes skin diseases, infections, or chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva can contribute to the dry eye.
What are the symptoms?
What are the symptoms?
Often the condition is painful, so frequent squinting or even a reluctance to open the eyes is often noted. Other signs include: eye and conjunctiva redness, yellow or green colored discharge, decreased vision, and a film covering the cornea.
How is it diagnosed?
If any of the above symptoms are noticed, an exam should be scheduled with an ophthalmologist. During the exam, the ophthalmologist will check the tear production, use a flourescein stain to check for ulcers, and will also check the eye pressure to determine if there is an underline cause for the dry eye.
How is it treated?
Typically a medication called Cyclosporin will be prescribed. This medication is an immune-suppressing drug that gives the eyes relief and in some also increases tear production. Artificial tears will also normally be prescribed to help keep the eye lubricated. Depending on if there is a corneal ulcer or if there is also an infection, additional medication may also be recommended. Normally, initially medications will need to be given more frequently and depending on how well the pet responds to treatment, the medications may be able to be weaned.
There is no cure for dry eye disease, so diligent treatment with medications and follow up appointments are essential to keep the eyes healthy any prevent any problems with vision.