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Relieving Chronic Dry Eye

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7 Common Causes of Dry Eye

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Susan Fishman, NCC, CRC on September 19, 2022
  • stressed young woman removing glasses and rubbing eyes in office in front of laptop
    Holding Back the Tears
    We all have natural tears that help keep our eyes smooth and clear, and protect them from infection. But when you have dry eye, you don’t have enough quality tears to lubricate the eye and keep it healthy. Either you don’t produce enough tears, your tears evaporate too quickly, or you have a problem or imbalance in the makeup of your tears, which includes layers of oil, water and mucus. It’s a chronic problem for many people, and there are a variety of common causes.
  • senior-african-american-woman-sitting-on-bench-reading
    1. Age
    A decline in the water (aqueous) component of tear production is a natural part of the aging process. By the age of 50, most people begin to experience some symptoms of dry eye.
  • young woman looking at smartphone
    2. Your Environment
    Windy or smoky environments, as well as dry climates, can lead to tear evaporation and increase your chances of developing dry eye. Also, staring at a screen, such as a phone or computer, for a long period of time can cause symptoms because you tend to blink less often. Seasonal allergies may also contribute to dry eye.
  • Pill pack
    3. Medications
    Some medications have been connected to dry eye symptoms. These include antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Medications for anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and high blood pressure have also been known to cause dry eye symptoms.
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  • Close-up of woman's hands holding need in pain
    4. Certain Medical Conditions
    Several medical conditions are associated with dry eye. These include autoimmune disorders, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other diseases like diabetes, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency. 
  • Senior woman staring off
    5. Hormones
    Since hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and menopause have been linked to chronic dry eye, women are more likely than men to develop the condition. The use of oral contraceptives can also cause dry eye symptoms, as these medications affect a woman’s hormones as well.
  • makeup-brushes
    6. Makeup
    Some ingredients in your makeup can be irritating to the eyes or aggravate already-dry eyes. These include ingredients that act as preservatives, stabilizers or anti-caking agents, as well as color additives, such as kohl. And the way you apply your makeup is also important. For example, applying eyeliner to the inside of your eyelid can block the oil glands that protect the cornea. Sleeping in your makeup, especially mascara, can also clog oil glands, so make sure to wash your face before bed to keep your skin and eyes healthy.
  • close up of contact lenses and saline solution
    7. Vision Problems
    If you wear contact lenses, you may also develop dry eye, especially after using contacts for a long period of time. Also, refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can decrease tear production and lead to dry eye symptoms, though these are usually temporary.
Dry Eye Causes | What Causes Dry Eyes
  1. Dry Eye. American Optometric Association.
  2. Dry Eyes. Mayo Clinic.
  3. Facts About Dry Eye. National Eye Institute. National Institutes of Health.
  4. Causes of Dry Eye. American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 19
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