Dry Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments


Dry eyes is a standard situation that happens when your tears aren’t capable of present sufficient lubrication on your eyes. Tears may be insufficient for a lot of causes. For instance, dry eyes might happen in case you do not produce sufficient tears or in case you produce poor-quality tears.

Dry eyes really feel uncomfortable. When you’ve got dry eyes, your eyes might sting or burn. Chances are you’ll expertise dry eyes in sure conditions, akin to on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, whereas driving a motorcycle or after a pc display screen for just a few hours.

Treatments for dry eyes might make you extra comfy. These therapies can embody way of life modifications and eyedrops. You will possible have to take these measures indefinitely to manage the signs of dry eyes.


Indicators and signs, which normally have an effect on each eyes, might embody:

  • A stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation in your eyes
  • Stringy mucus in or round your eyes
  • Sensitivity to gentle
  • Eye redness
  • A sensation of getting one thing in your eyes
  • Problem carrying contact lenses
  • Problem with nighttime driving
  • Watery eyes, which is the physique’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
  • Blurred imaginative and prescient or eye fatigue

When to see a health care provider

See your physician in case you’ve had extended indicators and signs of dry eyes, together with crimson, irritated, drained, or painful eyes. Your physician can take steps to find out what’s bothering your eyes or refer you to a specialist.


Dry eyes are attributable to an absence of sufficient tears. Your tears are a fancy combination of water, fatty oils, and mucus. This combination helps make the floor of your eyes clean and clear, and it helps defend your eyes from an infection.

For some folks, the reason for dry eyes is decreased tear manufacturing. For others it is elevated tear evaporation and an imbalance within the make-up of your tears.

Decreased tear manufacturing

Dry eyes can happen while you’re unable to supply sufficient tears. The medical time period for this situation is keratoconjunctivitis sicca(ker-uh-toe-kun-junk-tih-VY-tis SIK-uh). Frequent causes of decreased tear manufacturing embody:

  • Getting old
  • Sure medical circumstances, together with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid problems, and vitamin A deficiency
  • Sure drugs, together with antihistamines, decongestants, hormone substitute remedy, antidepressants, and medicine for hypertension, zits, contraception, and Parkinson’s illness
  • Laser eye surgical procedure, although signs of dry eyes associated to this process are normally momentary
  • Tear gland injury from irritation or radiation

Elevated tear evaporation

Frequent causes of elevated tear evaporation embody:

  • Wind, smoke, or dry air
  • Blinking much less usually, which tends to happen while you’re concentrating, for instance, whereas studying, driving, or working at a pc
  • Eyelid issues, akin to out-turning of the lids (ectropion) and in-turning of the lids (entropion)

Imbalance in tear composition

The tear movie has three primary layers: oil, water, and mucus. Issues with any of those layers could cause dry eyes. For instance, the oil movie produced by small glands on the sting of your eyelids (meibomian glands) may develop into clogged. Blocked meibomian glands are extra frequent in folks with irritation alongside the sting of their eyelids (blepharitis), rosacea, or different pores and skin problems.

Danger components

Components that make it extra possible that you’re going to expertise dry eyes embody:

  • Being older than 50. Tear manufacturing tends to decrease as you become old. Dry eyes are frequent in folks over 50.
  • Being a girl. An absence of tears is extra frequent in girls, particularly in the event that they expertise hormonal modifications because of being pregnant, utilizing contraception tablets, or menopause.
  • Consuming a weight loss program that’s low in vitamin A, which is present in liver, carrots, and broccoli, or low in omega-Three fatty acids, that are present in fish, walnuts, and vegetable oils
  • Carrying contact lenses


Individuals who have dry eyes might expertise these problems:

  • Eye infections. Your tears defend the floor of your eyes from an infection. With out sufficient tears, you could have an elevated danger of eye an infection.
  • Injury to the floor of your eyes. If left untreated, extreme dry eyes might result in eye irritation, abrasion of the corneal floor, corneal ulcer, and imaginative and prescient issues.
  • Decreased high quality of life. Dry eyes could make it tough to carry out on a regular basis actions, akin to studying.

Making ready on your appointment

You are prone to begin by seeing your loved ones physician. She or he might then refer you to an eye fixed specialist (ophthalmologist). As a result of appointments may be temporary, it is a good suggestion to be well-prepared on your appointment.

What you are able to do

  • Checklist any signs you are experiencing, together with any that will appear unrelated to the explanation for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Checklist key private info, together with any latest life modifications.
  • Make a listing of all drugs, nutritional vitamins, and dietary supplements that you are taking.
  • Checklist inquiries to ask your physician.

For dry eyes, some primary inquiries to ask your physician embody:

  • What is the most probably explanation for my dry eyes?
  • Do I would like any checks?
  • Can dry eyes get higher on their very own?
  • What are my remedy choices?
  • What are the potential uncomfortable side effects of every remedy?
  • I’ve different well being circumstances. How can I greatest handle these circumstances collectively?
  • Is a generic drug out there for the drugs you are prescribing me?
  • Do you’ve got any brochures or different printed materials that I can take with me?
  • What web sites do you suggest?
  • Do I have to plan for a follow-up go to?

Do not hesitate to ask further questions that will happen to you throughout your appointment.

What to anticipate out of your physician

Your physician might ask:

  • Are you able to describe your signs?
  • Do you recall while you first started experiencing signs?
  • Have your signs been steady or occasional?
  • Do different members of your loved ones have dry eyes?
  • Have you ever tried over-the-counter eyedrops? Did they supply reduction?
  • Are your signs worse within the morning or late within the day?
  • What drugs do you’re taking?
  • Have you ever had any radiation to the pinnacle or neck?

What you are able to do within the meantime

To alleviate your indicators and signs when you wait on your appointment, attempt over-the-counter eyedrops. Search for lubricating eyedrops (synthetic tears) and keep away from people who advocate decreasing redness within the eyes. Eyedrops that scale back eye redness could cause further eye irritation.

Checks and prognosis

Checks and procedures which may be used to find out the reason for your dry eyes embody:

  • A complete eye examination. A watch examination that features a full historical past of your total well being and your eye well being can assist your physician diagnose the reason for your dry eyes.
  • Measuring the quantity of your tears. Your physician might measure your tear manufacturing utilizing the Schirmer check. On this check, blotting strips of paper are positioned below your decrease eyelids. After 5 minutes your physician measures the quantity of strip soaked by your tears.
  • Figuring out the standard of your tears. Different checks use particular dyes in eyedrops to find out the floor situation of your eyes. Your physician seems to be for staining patterns on the corneas and measures how lengthy it takes earlier than your tears evaporate.

Treatments and medicine

For most individuals with occasional or delicate dry eye signs, it is sufficient to often use over-the-counter eyedrops (synthetic tears). In case your signs are persistent and extra severe, you’ve got different choices. What you do will depend on what’s inflicting your dry eyes.

Some therapies concentrate on reversing or managing a situation or issue that is inflicting your dry eyes. Different therapies can enhance your tear high quality or cease your tears from shortly draining away out of your eyes.

Treating the underlying explanation for dry eyes

In some instances, treating an underlying well being subject can assist clear up the indicators and signs of dry eyes. For example, if a medicine is inflicting your dry eyes, your physician might suggest a special treatment that does not trigger that aspect impact. When you’ve got an eyelid situation, akin to out-turning lids (ectropion), your physician might refer you to an eye fixed surgeon who makes a speciality of cosmetic surgery of the eyelids (oculoplastic surgeon). Or if in case you have rheumatoid arthritis, your physician might refer you to a rheumatologist.


Prescription drugs used to deal with dry eyes embody:

  • Medicine to scale back eyelid irritation. Irritation alongside the sting of your eyelids can hold oil glands from secreting oil into your tears. Your physician might suggest antibiotics to scale back irritation. Antibiotics for dry eyes are normally taken by mouth, although some are used as eyedrops or ointments.
  • Eyedrops to manage cornea irritation. Irritation on the floor of your eyes (cornea) could also be managed with prescription eyedrops that comprise the immune-suppressing treatment cyclosporine (Restasis) or corticosteroids. Corticosteroids will not be perfect for long-term use because of doable uncomfortable side effects.
  • Eye inserts that work like synthetic tears. When you’ve got reasonable to extreme dry eye signs and synthetic tears do not assist, an alternative choice could also be a tiny eye insert that appears like a transparent grain of rice. As soon as a day, you place the hydroxypropyl cellulose (Lacrisert) insert between your decrease eyelid and your eyeball. The insert dissolves slowly, releasing a substance that is utilized in eyedrops to lubricate your eye.
  • Tear-stimulating medicine. Medicine referred to as cholinergics (pilocarpine, cevimeline) assist improve tear manufacturing. These medicine can be found as tablets, gel, or eyedrops. Doable uncomfortable side effects embody sweating.
  • Eyedrops constructed from your individual blood. These are referred to as autologous blood serum drops. They might be an choice if in case you have extreme dry eye signs that do not reply to another remedy. To make these eyedrops, a pattern of your blood is processed to take away the crimson blood cells and then blended with a salt resolution.

Different procedures

Different procedures which may be used to deal with dry eyes embody:

  • Closing your tear ducts to scale back tear loss. Your physician might counsel this remedy to maintain your tears from leaving your eye too shortly. This may be completed by partially or fully closing your tear ducts, which usually serve to empty tears away.

    Tear ducts may be plugged with tiny silicone plugs (punctal plugs). These are detachable. Or tear ducts may be plugged with a process that makes use of warmth. This can be a extra everlasting resolution referred to as thermal cautery.

  • Utilizing particular contact lenses. Ask your physician about newer contact lenses designed to assist folks with dry eyes.

    Some folks with extreme dry eyes might go for particular contact lenses that defend the floor of your eyes and entice moisture. These are referred to as scleral lenses or bandage lenses.

  • Unblocking oil glands. Dry eyes attributable to blocked oil glands could also be helped by a remedy referred to as LipiFlow thermal pulsation. In the course of the remedy, a tool that appears like an eyecup is positioned over your eye. It delivers a delicate, heat therapeutic massage to the decrease eyelid. The process takes lower than 15 minutes. It isn’t clear whether or not this technique is best at clearing blocked oil glands than common heat compresses and eyelid washing.

  • Utilizing gentle remedy and eyelid therapeutic massage. A method referred to as intense-pulsed gentle remedy adopted by therapeutic massage of the eyelids helps folks with extreme dry eyes. In a single research, the remedy was given month-to-month to 78 folks, and 68 of them skilled decreased signs.

Life-style and residence cures

You might be able to handle your dry eyes with frequent eyelid washing and use of over-the-counter (OTC) eyedrops or different merchandise that assist lubricate your eyes. In case your situation is long run (persistent), use eyedrops even when your eyes really feel wonderful to maintain them well-lubricated.

Choosing and utilizing OTC merchandise for dry eyes

A wide range of nonprescription merchandise for dry eyes can be found, together with eyedrops (synthetic tears), gels, gel inserts, and ointments. Discuss together with your physician about which could be greatest for you.

Synthetic tears could also be all you could management delicate dry eye signs. Some folks have to put drops in a number of instances a day, and some use them solely as soon as a day.

Take into account these components when deciding on an OTC product:

  • Preservative vs. nonpreservative drops. Preservatives are added to some eyedrops to extend shelf life. You should use eyedrops with preservatives as much as 4 instances a day. However utilizing the preservative drops extra usually could cause eye irritation. Nonpreservative eyedrops are available packages that comprise a number of single-use vials. After you employ a vial, you throw it away. In the event you depend on eyedrops greater than 4 instances a day, nonpreservative drops are secure.
  • Drops vs. ointments. Lubricating eye ointments coat your eyes, offering longer lasting reduction from dry eyes. However these merchandise are thicker than eyedrops and can cloud your imaginative and prescient. Because of this, ointments are greatest used simply earlier than bedtime. Eyedrops can be utilized at any time and will not intervene together with your imaginative and prescient.
  • Drops that scale back redness. It is best to keep away from these as your resolution for dry eyes, as extended use could cause irritation.

Washing your eyelids to manage irritation

For folks with blepharitis and different circumstances that trigger eyelid irritation that blocks the stream of oil to the attention, frequent and mild eyelid washing might assist. To scrub your eyelids:

  • Apply a heat washcloth to your eyes. Moist a clear fabric with heat water. Maintain the material over your eyes for 5 minutes. Rewet the material with heat water when it cools. Gently rub the washcloth over your eyelids—together with the bottom of the eyelashes—to loosen any particles.
  • Use a light cleaning soap in your eyelids. Use child shampoo or one other delicate cleaning soap. Put the cleanser in your clear fingertips and gently therapeutic massage your closed eyes close to the bottom of your eyelashes. Rinse fully.

Your physician might suggest that you just do that each day, even when your dry eye signs have been relieved. Stopping this each day routine might permit your signs to return.

Different drugs

Additional research is required, however some various drugs approaches might assist relieve your dry eye signs. Focus on the advantages and dangers together with your physician.

  • Fatty acids. Including omega-Three and omega-6 fatty acids to your weight loss program might assist relieve dry eye indicators and signs. These can be found as dietary supplements and in meals akin to flaxseed, salmon, sardines, and vegetable oils.
  • Castor oil eyedrops. These eyedrops might enhance signs by decreasing tear evaporation.
  • Acupuncture. Some folks have seen their dry eye signs enhance after acupuncture remedy.


In the event you expertise dry eyes, take note of the conditions which can be most probably to trigger your signs. Then discover methods to keep away from these conditions with the intention to forestall your dry eyes signs. For example:

  • Keep away from air blowing in your eyes. Do not direct hair dryers, automotive heaters, air conditioners, or followers towards your eyes.
  • Add moisture to the air. In winter, a humidifier can add moisture to dry indoor air.
  • Take into account carrying wraparound sun shades or different protecting eyewear. Security shields may be added to the tops and sides of eyeglasses to dam wind and dry air. Ask about shields the place you purchase your eyeglasses.
  • Take eye breaks throughout lengthy duties. In the event you’re studying or doing one other job that requires visible focus, take periodic eye breaks. Shut your eyes for a couple of minutes. Or blink repeatedly for just a few seconds to assist unfold your tears evenly over your eyes.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. The air at excessive altitudes, in desert areas and in airplanes may be extraordinarily dry. When spending time in such an surroundings, it might be useful to incessantly shut your eyes for a couple of minutes at a time to reduce evaporation of your tears.
  • Place your laptop display screen under eye degree. In case your laptop display screen is above eye degree, you may open your eyes wider to view the display screen. Place your laptop display screen under eye degree so that you just will not open your eyes as vast. This may occasionally assist sluggish the evaporation of your tears between eye blinks.
  • Quit smoking and keep away from smoke. In the event you smoke, ask your physician for assist devising a quit-smoking technique that is most probably to give you the results you want. In the event you do not smoke, steer clear of individuals who do. Smoke can worsen dry eyes signs.
  • Use synthetic tears often. When you’ve got persistent dry eyes, use eyedrops even when your eyes really feel wonderful to maintain them well-lubricated.

Up to date: 2015-07-24

Publication Date: 2002-09-10

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