What are the causes and remedies for dry eyes?

Symptom Database

Dry eyes can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition that affects many individuals. It occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including redness, irritation, and a gritty sensation in the eyes. Fortunately, there are several causes and remedies for dry eyes that can provide relief and improve eye health.

Dry Eye Causes

Understanding the causes of dry eyes is essential in finding the right treatment. Some common causes include:

  • Age: As we get older, our tear production decreases, making dry eyes more common in older adults.
  • Environmental factors: Dry and windy climates, as well as air conditioning and heating systems, can contribute to dry eyes.
  • Screen time: Staring at screens for extended periods can cause us to blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders, can increase the risk of dry eyes.
  • Medications: Some medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants, can cause dry eyes as a side effect.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of dry eyes is crucial in seeking appropriate treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Redness and irritation
  • A gritty or sandy sensation in the eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light

Dry Eye Treatment

While dry eyes cannot always be cured, there are several treatment options available to alleviate symptoms and improve eye comfort. Some effective dry eye treatments include:

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears are over-the-counter eye drops that can provide temporary relief for dry eyes. They work by lubricating the eyes and replacing the missing moisture. It is important to choose preservative-free artificial tears to avoid further irritation.

Prescription Eye Drops

In more severe cases of dry eyes, prescription eye drops may be necessary. These eye drops contain medications that help increase tear production or reduce inflammation in the eyes. It is essential to consult with an eye care professional to determine the most suitable prescription eye drops for individual needs.

Warm Compresses

Applying warm compresses to the eyes can help stimulate tear production and relieve dry eye symptoms. Simply soak a clean cloth in warm water, wring out the excess, and place it over closed eyes for a few minutes. This can be done multiple times a day for optimal results.

Dietary Changes

Some studies suggest that certain dietary changes can improve dry eye symptoms. Increasing omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts, may help reduce inflammation in the eyes. Additionally, staying hydrated by drinking enough water can also contribute to overall eye health.


Using a humidifier in dry environments can add moisture to the air, preventing excessive evaporation of tears. This can be particularly beneficial during the winter months or in rooms with air conditioning or heating systems.

Dry Eye Relief and Remedies

In addition to the treatment options mentioned above, there are several home remedies and lifestyle changes that can provide relief for dry eyes:

Blinking Exercises

Regularly practicing blinking exercises can help keep the eyes lubricated. This is especially important for individuals who spend long hours in front of screens. Taking breaks and consciously blinking more frequently can prevent dry eyes.

Avoiding Eye Irritants

Avoiding smoke, allergens, and other eye irritants can help reduce dry eye symptoms. If exposure to irritants is unavoidable, wearing protective eyewear, such as goggles, can provide an additional layer of defense.

Proper Eye Care

Practicing good eye hygiene can go a long way in preventing and managing dry eyes. This includes regularly cleaning the eyelids, avoiding rubbing the eyes, and removing eye makeup before bed.

Limiting Screen Time

Reducing screen time and taking regular breaks can help prevent digital eye strain and dry eyes. The 20-20-20 rule is a helpful guideline: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Protective Eyewear

When engaging in activities that may expose the eyes to wind, dust, or other irritants, wearing protective eyewear, such as wraparound sunglasses, can shield the eyes and prevent dryness.

In conclusion, dry eyes can be caused by various factors, including age, environmental conditions, and certain medical conditions. While dry eyes cannot always be cured, there are numerous remedies and treatments available to alleviate symptoms and improve eye comfort. From artificial tears and prescription eye drops to warm compresses and dietary changes, finding the right approach may require some trial and error. By incorporating these remedies into a daily routine and making necessary lifestyle adjustments, individuals can find relief from dry eyes and maintain optimal eye health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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