What is Dry Eye?

If you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms, you’re not alone. Dry eye is a significant global problem affecting more than 344 million people worldwide, and more than 30 million people in the US alone.

Dry eye occurs when you don’t have enough tears to keep the eyes properly lubricated and nourished. You may experience symptoms of dry eye in one eye, or in both eyes. It can happen when:

  • Your eyes simply aren’t making enough tears
  • Your eyes are making poor quality tears, and they’re evaporating too quickly

Over time, if left untreated, dry eye symptoms can impact your eye health and your vision. And, though dry eye is more common as you age, it can affect anyone depending on biology, physiology, environment, and lifestyle.

How Do You Know If You Have Dry Eyes?

Person rubbing their eye, with eyes closed and a slight grimace on face.

While dry eye is uncomfortable and can feel different to different people, some common symptoms may include:

  • Dryness
  • Pain
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Grittiness
  • Foreign body feeling
  • Excessive blinking
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
Person rubbing their eye, with eyes closed and a slight grimace on face.


More screen time can mean less blinking, in some cases 65% less than the average number of blinks, contributing to dry eye symptoms.

What Causes Dry Eye?

There are certain conditions that often contribute to dry eye:

Meibomian Gland Disorder (MGD)

One of the leading causes of dry eye, MGD is when some or all of the glands that help provide the natural oils in the outer layer of your tear film are clogged. When this happens, your tears evaporate more quickly than they should.


Salt in tears is normal. But when tears evaporate too quickly too much salt is left behind in the eye. This is called hyperosmolarity and can result in dry, irritated-feeling eyes.

Other common factors that contribute to dry eye symptoms include: 

  • Biology & Physiology — Tear production normally decreases as we age. Although dry eye can occur in both men and women at any age, women are more often affected due to hormonal changes. You also may experience dry eye symptoms after LASIK or other eye surgery.
  • Environment — Whether you’re inside or outdoors, your environment can make a difference. Dry eye symptoms can worsen in particularly dry climates, or they can be impacted by indoor heating or air conditioning, for example.
  • Lifestyle — If you travel to different environments a lot, stay in dry, air-conditioned buildings, or look at computer or phone screens for long durations, you might be more prone to dry eye symptoms.
  • Medication — Prescription drugs, especially antihistamines, diuretics and anti-anxiety pills, can contribute to dry eye symptoms.
  • Contact lens wear and care habits — Wearing contacts for longer than recommended can contribute to dry eye symptoms. So can changing your solution or care routine.


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What Can You Do For Dry Eyes?

If you can relate to any of the symptoms above, you may suffer from dry eye. Luckily, it’s something that’s often easily addressed. Try these quick tips and home remedies for dry eyes, and see if you notice a difference:

  • Use lubricating eye drops
  • Adjust your environment (for example, change the direction of a blowing fan, or add a humidifier to add moisture to the air)
  • Take frequent breaks from your digital devices and don’t forget about the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look up for 20 minutes, and focus on an object 20 feet away
  • Include sufficient amounts of Vitamin A and Omega-3s in your diet

Have questions about addressing dry eye? Talk to your eye care professional for recommendations personal to you and your symptoms.

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A doctor’s smiling face.

Have Questions About Dry Eye? Talk to Your Eye Doctor

If your eyes feel uncomfortable, or you have trouble seeing and the tips above haven’t helped, make an appointment with your eye doctor. No issue is too small to discuss, especially since your eyes are what connect you to the world.

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