Worst Cities for Dry Eyes

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Do you have dry eyes? Are you curious if the city you live in could be affecting them? Let’s shed some light on what’s causing your symptoms and what changes you can make to relieve them. Don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to move. There are treatments that can help you and your eyes stay comfortable exactly where you are.

First, a quick overview of dry eye. This irritating condition occurs when your body can’t produce enough tears. Dry eye can cause pain, itching, burning, redness, and a gritty sensation in your eyes. It can also lead to excessive tearing when your eyes are so dry that your body sends emergency signals to your nervous system for more lubrication. These symptoms can get worse when you’re driving, reading, or looking at your computer, because you’re blinking less and not lubricating the surface of your eyes..

Dry eye is sometimes the result of an imbalance of the oil, water, antibodies, and mucus that make up your tears. Other times dry eye is due to age, hormones, medication, or your environment. No matter the cause, if you’re experiencing dry eye, you’re probably eager to make a move towards a solution.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Dry Eye

Environmental Factors Affecting Dry Eye

Where you live can play a big role in whether or not you experience dry eye and how severe your symptoms are. Dry air at high altitudes, in desert areas, and in cold, windy climates are common causes of chronic dry eye and irritation. 

Extremely cold temperatures can make the oily outer layer of the eye, the meibum, become thick and stiff so it won’t effectively lubricate the eye. If the meibum gets cold enough, it can solidify and clog the ducts that keep your eyes moist. Add wind to the weather and your tears will evaporate more quickly, causing dryness. Debris and irritants can also blow into your eyes and cause inflammation.

Air pollution is another cause of dry eye symptoms. One study of U.S. military veterans reports that people in the Chicago and New York City areas are three to four times more susceptible to experiencing dry eye because of air pollution. The study also found people who live in dry, high altitudes are 13% more likely to experience dry eye.

If dry, cold, windy, or smoggy describes the air in your city, your environment might be the culprit for your dry eyes. While the weather outside impacts your eyes outdoors, it can also affect your air quality indoors. In cold climates, the flow of dry, warm air from a heating vent or radiator can dry your eyes. Smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces can also be irritating. The same rings true for warm climates, where the air conditioning that keeps you cool also reduces humidity in the air and dries out your eyes.

Worst Cities for Dry Eyes

Still not sure if your location is the cause of your dry eyes? Curious if a move might be worth the extra comfort? Here is a list of some of the worst cities for dry eye symptoms, based on factors like humidity, temperature, altitude, wind, allergens, and pollutants. If you have a problem with dry eyes, avoid these hot (or cold) spots and the surrounding areas. Instead, make the move to a smaller town with warm, humid weather, and little pollution.

  • Las Vegas, NV

  • Phoenix, AZ

  • Albuquerque, NM

  • Salt Lake City, UT

  • Denver, CO

  • Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX

  • Oklahoma City, OK

  • Kansas City, MO

  • Atlanta, GA

  • Newark, NJ

  • Boston, MA

  • Pittsburgh, PA

  • New York, NY

  • Philadelphia, PA

  • Baltimore, MD

Living With Dry Eyes

You don’t have to move to a tropical island to avoid dry eye, though that might be a nice option! Dry eye management can be as simple as changing your habits and giving your eyes a little more love.

Try the following dry eye-relieving techniques:

  • Use a high-quality air filter in your home

  • Add moisture to the air by putting a humidifier in the rooms where you spend the most time

  • Wear wraparound sunglasses on windy days to protect your eyes

  • Clean your eyelids daily with a gentle soap or eyelid cleanser

  • Place warm compresses on your eyes to help your lids release oil and create better quality tears

  • Use artificial tears during the day to keep your eyes lubricated

  • Blink every 5-10 seconds, especially when driving or looking at computer or TV screens

If you need help managing your dry eye, talk to an ophthalmologist or optometrist about products and procedures that can improve your symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Mar 20
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