What causes 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) Many people get dry eyes. It’s not usually serious and there are some things you can do to help. Knowing the route because of your condition is key to understanding how to manage it. [1]

Dry Eye can also co-exist, or be caused by other related conditions such as Meibomian Gland Disorder (MGD) and Blepharitis.

What is the cause of dry eyes ?

There are many different factors that can cause dry eyes. However, ultimately dry eyes occur because you do not make enough tears in your eyes, or your tears dry up quickly. [2]

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

When you have dry eyes, it might feel like you’ve got something in your eye that won’t come out. This can feel like a scratchy, gritty or sandy sensation. Your symptoms might also include:

  • Feeling sensitive to light
  • Blurred or changed vision
  • Mucus coming out of your eyes
  • Watery eyes [2]

Watery, red eye close-up

What else causes dry eyes?

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.[3]

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, decreased production of androgens (sex hormones) in women further affects tear production.[4] [5]

For more information about Dry Eye and Menopause read our blog: 5 Things You Need to Know About Menopause and Dry Eye.

2. Lifestyle

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.[6]
Smoking and drinking alcohol can also cause Dry Eye, or can make existing symptoms much worse.[7]

On the other hand, eating certain foods, living a generally healthy lifestyle, and reducing screen time can help reduce symptoms.[8]

To understand more about what foods you can eat to help relieve Dry Eye, read our blog: 8 Foods to Eat if you Have Dry Eye

3. Medication

Certain medications can cause Dry Eye, or make it worse. These include:

  • Acne medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Parkison’s medications
  • Sleeping Pills
  • Antihistamines
  • Birth Control and other hormone treatment
  • Blood pressure medication.[9]

4. Screen Use

When we stare at computers, mobiles, or any other digital screens, our blink rate slows, drying out our eyes. [10]

This is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) and affects people of all ages.[11] 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] [12]

We’ve written a blog about Computer Vision Syndrome, read it here to learn more: What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Woman rubbing her eyes

5. Pre-Existing Conditions

Dry Eye can also be a symptom of other, pre-existing conditions, like:

  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lagophthalmos.[13]

Understand more about how different conditions can affect dry eyes in our blog: 6 Conditions That Cause Dry Eye

6. Contact Lenses

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.[14]

However, there are some top tips to manage wearing contacts if your eyes feel itchy and dry. Read our blog to explore what they are: How to Manage Dry Eye if you Wear Contact Lenses.

7. The Environment

Many people may notice that the change in seasons, the weather or new surroundings can worsen Dry Eye symptoms. Changes to the air temperature, humidity and air quality happen with the changing seasons. Therefore, it’s natural that in certain seasons, your eyes might feel dryer.

Spring can bring about seasonal allergies such as hay fever, when allergens in the air are more prominent. Whereas cold weather can also irritate dry eyes due to the cold air outside and central heating indoors. [15]

We’ve written a blog on this that dives into dry eyes and the environment in more detail. Read it here: Can the Environment Cause Dry Eyes?

Woman blowing her nose in a field with yellow flowers

8. Surgeries

Some underlying eye conditions, such as cataracts may require surgery in some cases. While this is great for treating these conditions, some eye surgeries can increase your risk of dry eyes. [2] Fortunately, these symptoms are usually only temporary as Dry Eyes almost always improves within a few months, once the eye fully heals. [16]

To understand more about dry eyes after eye surgery, read our blog: Why do I Have Dry Eyes After Cataract Surgery?

Can dry eyes be cured?

Unfortunately, Dry Eye is a condition which does not have a cure, but many treatments can help to manage your symptoms. We’d always recommend trying several different treatments to find what works best for you. [2]

We’ll discuss some of these treatments below.

Treatment of dry eyes

Eye drops and gels are the most common form of medical treatment for Dry Eye. They work by lubricating the eyes to relieve symptoms to ease itchiness. You can also buy different types of eye drops which may suit different people and their conditions. Discover what these are in our blog: Find Out Which Dry Eye Treatment is Best For Your Condition.

There are also many lifestyle changes, supplements and vitamins that you could try to help prevent symptoms. For example, quitting smoking and increasing your vitamins can be a great place to start if you’re suffering with dry eyes. [7] [17]

Person putting eye drops in (close-up)

What’s the best eye gel for dry eyes?

Eye gel aims to lock in moisture and help to soothe the itching and redness associated with dry eyes. It comes in many forms such as tubes or drops, like our popular VisuXL Gel. Our VisuXL Gel can be used for day and night use, making it a good choice for people looking for a reliable eye gel treatment. It contains cross-linked sodium carboxymethylcellulose which is a safe, effective and long lasting lubricant. [18]

If you think you are suffering visit a GP, or explore this guide to which Dry Eye Treatment might be best for you: Find Out Which Dry Eye Treatment is Best For Your Condition.


In most cases, the best way to treat dry eyes, Also known as dry eye syndrome, is to use eye gel or eye drops.

VisuXL Gel® is a preservative-free smart gel lubricant for dry eye syndrome. It provides comfort in a bottle with it’s long-lasting lubrication properties giving 12-hour dosing with just one drop and is suitable for both day and night use.

VisuXL® is a preservative-free eye drop lubricant for dry eye syndrome. Due to its unique ingredients, VisuXL® will help you recover from eye surgery, an injury or persistent damaging dry eye.

VisuEvo® is a preservative-free eye drop that prevents excessive evaporation of the tear film. Its unique formula contains omega-3 essential fatty acids, Vitamins A and D and ultra-filtered phospholipids that facilitate tear film presentation and control evaporation.

All three products are contact lens-friendly and can be used for 180 days after opening.

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  1. NHS UK, ‘Dry Eyes’, NHS. Accessed June 2023.
  2. Cleveland Clinic, ‘DryEye’, Cleveland Clinic. Accessed June 2023.
  3. Anushree Sharma, Holly B. Hindman, ‘Aging: A Predisposition to Dry Eyes’. J Ophthalmol, 2014; 2014: 781683.
  4. Cintia S. de Paiva, ‘Effects of Aging in Dry Eye’, Int Ophthalmol Clin. 2017 Spring; 57(2): 47–64.
  5. Corinne O’Keefe Osborn, ‘Menopause and Dry Eyes: What’s the Link?’. Accessed February 2022.
  6. 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..
  7. Griffin, Morgan. ‘Smoking and Dry Eye’. Accessed February 2022.
  8. Dry Eye and Me, ‘6 Lifestyle Tips to Get Rid of Dry Eye’. Accessed February 2022.
  9. ‘Is Your Medication Causing Dry Eye?’, WedMD. Accessed June 2023.
  10. Wheeler, Regina Boyle. ‘Dry Eye and Screen Use’, WebMD, 21/06/21. Accessed October 2021.
  11. Stephanie Watson, ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’, WebMD. Accessed February 2022.
  12. Marcin, Ashley , ‘How Does the 20-20-20 Rule Prevent Eye Strain?’ Healthline. Accessed June 2023.
  13. ‘Causes’, Not a Dry Eye Foundation. Accessed February 2022.
  14. Specsavers, ‘Your Guide to Wearing Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes’. Accessed September 2021.
  15. Compete Eye Care of Medina, ‘Which Season Has The Greatest Impact on Dry Eyes?’. Accessed June 2023.
  16. Cathy Lovering, ‘Dry Eye Surgery: Are You a Candidate?’, Healthline. Accessed June 2023.
  17. Laurie Capogna, ‘The Best Supplements for Dry Eye’, My Eye Wellness. Accessed June 2023.
  18. VisuXL Instructions for Use (IFU). Accessed June 2023.
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