6 Causes of Dry Eye
Dry Eye Syndrome is a chronic condition, with varying degrees of severity. It can have multiple causes which can overlap with each other. 1
Dry Eye can also co-exist, or be caused by other related conditions such as Meibomian Gland Disorder (MGD) and Blepharitis.
There are some very common causes or triggers of Dry Eye that affect lots of people, and some less common causes, like pre-existing conditions and specific medication that can cause irritating symptoms for a minority of people.
1. Age/ Menopause
One of the most common causes of Dry Eye Syndrome is age, especially if you are a woman. Dry Eye affects approximately 5-30% of the elderly population, with menopause increasing the likelihood of developing symptoms.2
As we age, our cells experience more oxidative stress, and the lacrimal gland that produces our tears deteriorates the older we get.3 In Menopause especially, decressed production of androgens (sex hormones) in women further affects tear production.4
Lifestyle, diet, and environment can really trigger Dry Eye Disease. Dry eyes can be caused by things like heating and air conditioning systems, as well as the outdoor environment e.g. windy, cold, dry or dusty weather conditions.5 Smoking and drinking alcohol can also cause Dry Eye, or can make existing symptoms much worse.6
On the other hand, eating certain foods, living a generally healthy lifestyle, and reducing screen time can help reduce symptoms.7
Certain medications can cause Dry Eye, or make it worse. These include:
- Acne medication
- Parkison’s medications
- Sleeping Pills
- Birth Control and other hormone treatment
- Blood pressure medication.8
When we stare at computers, mobiles, or any other digital screens, our blink rate slows, drying out our eyes. 9
This is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) and affects people of all ages.10 It can, combined with other Dry Eye triggers, make existing conditions much worse. Top tips to prevent CVS include reducing screen time and following the 20:20:20 rule.11
Dry Eye can also be a symptom of other, pre-existing conditions, like:
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Contact lenses can aggravate Dry Eye because the presence of the lens on the cornea limits oxygen flow into the eye, and oxygen is necessary to develop natural tears.13
However, there are some top tips to manage wearing contacts if your eyes feel itchy and dry.
There are many different causes of Dry Eye, but there are also many different treatments for Dry Eye! If you think you are suffering visit a GP, or explore this guide to which Dry Eye Treatment might be best for you.
- Valencia Higuera and Erika Klein, ‘Chronic Dry Eye Causes and How to Treat Them’, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-dry-eye/causes-how-to-treat, Accessed Feb 2020.
- Anushree Sharma, Holly B. Hindman, ‘Aging: A Predisposition to Dry Eyes’, J Ophthalmol, 2014; 2014: 781683.
- Cintia S. de Paiva, ‘Effects of Aging in Dry Eye’, Int Ophthalmol Clin., 2017 Spring; 57(2): 47–64.
- Corinne O’Keefe Osborn, ‘Menopause and Dry Eyes: What’s the Link? https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/menopause-and-dry-eyes. Accessed Feb 2022
- Monica Alves, Priscila Novaes, Monica de Andrade Morraye, Peter Sol Reinach, Eduardo Melani Rocha, ‘Is Dry Eye an Environmental Disease?’, Arq Bras Oftalmol, May-Jun 2014;77(3):193-200.
- Griffin, Morgan. ‘Smoking and Dry Eye’, https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/smoking-dry-eyes, Accessed Feb 2022.
- Dry Eye and Me, ‘6 Lifestyle Tips to Get Rid of Dry Eye,’ https://www.dryeyeandme.co.uk/6-lifestyle-tips-to-get-rid-of-dry-eye/ Accessed Feb 2022.
- ‘Is Your Medication Causing Dry Eye?’, WedMD,
- Wheeler, Regina Boyle. ‘Dry Eye and Screen Use’, WebMD, 21/06/21, Accessed Oct 2021: https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/dry-eye-screen-use
- Stephanie Watson, ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/computer-vision-syndrome, Accessed Feb 2022.
- Marcin, Ashley , ‘How Does the 20-20-20 Rule Prevent Eye Strain?’ Healthline https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/20-20-20-rule#:~:text=The%2020%2D20%2D20%20rule%20can%20help%20your%20eyes%20refocus,your%20eyes%20for%2015%20minutes
- ‘Causes’, Not a Dry Eye Foundation, https://www.notadryeye.org/all-about-dry-eye-syndrome/causes-of-dry-eye-syndrome-and-related-diseases/, Accessed Feb 2022.
- Specsavers, ‘Your Guide to Wearing Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes’, Accessed Sep 2021:.https://www.specsavers.co.uk/contact-lenses/eye-conditions-symptoms/contact-lenses-for-dry-eyes