Dry Eyes: Possible causes and how to treat it

Dry Eye Syndrome is a common condition and whilst it is often not serious, it can be uncomfortable.

Dry eye can be caused by a number of factors related to the delicate balance of your tears.

Usually, your eyes are lubricated by your tear film. This is made up of three layers, the mucous layer, water layer and oil layer.

When these layers are well balanced your eyes should feel comfortable. However, if an imbalance is triggered, you will experience symptoms and possibly discomfort. This is dry eye syndrome.

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

If you are suffering from dry eye, you will probably experience some, or many, of the following symptoms.

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Grittiness, or the feeling there is something in your eye.
  • Watery eyes

You may think it’s strange to suffer watery eyes with this condition. However, when your eyes are dry, you will produce more reflex tears to tackle the dryness. A reduced oily layer will mean the water evaporates too quickly to relieve the dryness. Which in turn, causes more water.

What causes dry eye?

Common causes of dry eye are:


Unfortunately, as you age you become more susceptible to dry eye. You will naturally start to produce fewer tears whilst your eyelid may not spread them around leaving you with dry patches that cause irritation.


Your environment can have a significant impact on your eyes with the wind, rain, sun and cold all having an effect.

When indoors, air conditioning, both in buildings and in cars, creates a dry environment which can be a common irritant for people.

Contact lenses

If you wear your contact lenses for longer that is recommended, your eyes can become dry. Although the materials used to make contact lenses are always improving, it’s important to follow the guidance from your optician.


Lifestyle factors including smoking and alcohol can cause dry eyes. Alcohol has a generally dehydrating impact on your body which can affect your eyes. Smoking and being in a smoky environment is very irritating for the eyes.

Using screens for work or leisure, including working at a computer, often means you are concentrating on the screen for extended periods of time and, as a result, may blink less. This, in turn, leads to your eyes becoming dry. This can be worse for contact lens wearers.

Medical conditions and medicines

Some medical conditions and medication can cause dry eyes as a result of the way your whole body is affected. Also, whilst not an illness, pregnancy and menopause both cause hormonal changes which can also result in dry eye.

Take advice from your optometrist

Any changes to your vision or the comfort of your eyes should be checked by an optometrist. They will ask you a range of questions to understand your medical history, assess whether you are suffering dry eye, or whether you are experiencing something else such as an allergic reaction.

They will also be able to undertake a physical examination of your eyes to rule out other, potentially more serious, conditions.

Once your condition has been diagnosed, they will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment. Treating dry eye can often be as simple as creating better eye-health habits (such as regular screen breaks) or using eye drops.

For more information about dry eyes, or to make an appointment with an optometrist, call 023 9255 0723 for Lee-on-the-Solent or 01329 832706 for Wickham.