1. Your Sight
  2. Dry eye disease
  3. What are the symptoms?
Man applying eye-drops

What are the symptoms?

In most cases dry eyes cause mild discomfort, but in some cases it can become painful and the dryness can cause permanent damage to the eye surface.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Heavy, tired feeling of the eyes
  • Difficulty reading or working on the computer
  • Blurriness of vision
  • Excessive watering of the eyes (when they are very dry a reflex reaction in the brain causes more tear production)
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
  • Stinging or burning of the eyes
  • A sandy or gritty feeling, as if something is in the eye
  • Pain and redness of the eyes

If you experience any of these symptoms you should discuss these with your GP or optometrist, who may then refer you to an ophthalmologist.

Who is at risk of dry eye disease?

Dry eye disease can affect anyone, but is more common in women and people aged 65 and over. As we get older tear production decreases, and the eyelids also become less effective at spreading the tears each time we blink. 

People who frequently use computer or video screens are also more at risk of developing dry eyes. Using screens for a long period of time can lead to reduced blinking, meaning the tears are not spread across the eye surface as well.

Lack of sleep and excessive stress can lead to dry eye due to oily tear gland dysfunction. The use of some medicines, including anti-depressants, anti-histamines and oral contraceptives, can also affect the amount of tears produced. Dry eye disease is also more common in people with autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Other risk factors for dry eye include long-term contact lens wear, laser or cosmetic surgery, long-term use of glaucoma eye drops and large blebs (small reservoir) from glaucoma surgery.