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To demonstrate the ability of the Dry Eye Questionnaire (DEQ) to characterize the frequency of ocular surface symptoms and their diurnal intensity in patients with Sjögren's syndrome (SS), keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), and age-matched controls.One hundred patients with tear-deficient dry eye from Toronto Western Hospital were mailed the DEQ and the McMonnies' questionnaire (MQ). Age- and gender-matched controls were selected from an historical data set. The DEQ measured the habitual frequency, intensity, and impact of common ocular surface symptoms and asked questions about computer use, medications, and allergies.Sixty-two dry eye subjects responded; 30 with SS and 32 with KCS. Compared with controls, SS subjects consistently reported the highest frequency and intensity of symptoms, followed by non-KCS subjects. The intensity of symptoms was significantly greater in the evening than in the morning among SS subjects for all symptoms except dryness and light sensitivity (p < 0.05). Sixty percent of SS subjects reported the need to stop daily activities and close their eyes due to dryness, burning, and light sensitivity.Symptoms of ocular irritation were frequent and intense among SS and KCS subjects. These symptoms often increased in intensity over the day, suggesting that open-eye conditions affect the progression of symptoms. Measurement of symptom frequency and diurnal intensity by the DEQ provides a sensitive tool that may be useful in clinical treatment trials for dry eye.