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Can Dry Eye Cause Headaches?

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A blonde woman touches her left eye in discomfort, possibly suffering from dry eye and headaches.

Experiencing dry eyes can be more than just an uncomfortable inconvenience. It can significantly affect your overall well-being and contribute to additional headaches. Understanding the connection between dry eye syndrome and headaches is essential for finding effective relief. 

When your eyes are dry, they can become strained and irritated, which can lead to headaches. Reducing eye strain by treating dry eye symptoms can help alleviate these headaches.

At Total Focus Optometry, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive eye care solutions tailored to your needs, ensuring that your vision and comfort are always a priority.

Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, also known as dry eye disease or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common condition that occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears or the quality of the tears is insufficient to keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated. Tears are essential for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can vary but commonly include:

  • A stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation in the eyes
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A feeling of having something in your eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Difficulty with nighttime driving
  • Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
  • Blurred vision or eye fatigue

Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome

Several factors can contribute to dry eye syndrome, including:

  • Age: Tear production tends to decrease with age.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants, can reduce tear production.
  • Medical Conditions: Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid disorders can affect tear production.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to wind, smoke, or dry air can increase tear evaporation.
  • Screen Time: Prolonged use of screens can lead to less frequent blinking, contributing to dryness.
  • Contact Lenses: Wearing contact lenses for extended periods can cause or exacerbate dry eye symptoms.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing dry eye syndrome typically involves a comprehensive eye exam, during which an optometrist will evaluate the quantity and quality of your tears and assess the health of the front surface of your eyes.

Treatment options for dry eye syndrome may include:

  • Restasis: Restasis is an eye drop that helps produce high-quality tears. Unlike artificial tears, Restasis does more than just temporarily lubricate the eye.
  • Blephex: Blephex is an in-office treatment designed to remove accumulated biofilm around the eyelids. By eliminating this buildup, the eyes can produce more natural and higher-quality tears. The procedure typically takes just 6–8 minutes.
  • Artificial Tears: Over-the-counter eye drops can help lubricate the eyes.
  • Punctal Plugs: Tiny devices inserted into the tear ducts to reduce tear drainage.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Incorporating habits like taking regular breaks from screens, using humidifiers, and protecting eyes from wind and smoke.
A smiling eye doctor administers eye drops for dry eye treatment to a young man in a clinic.

The Link Between Dry Eyes & Headaches

A possible reason for experiencing headaches with dry eye is a structural difference in your eye. A 2015 study found that individuals with migraines have a different ocular structure compared to those without migraines. The researchers also discovered that dry eye symptoms are common in people with migraines.

While it may not be immediately obvious, there is a connection between dry eyes and headaches. Here are some ways dry eye syndrome can contribute to headaches:

Eye Strain

When your eyes are dry, they have to work harder to focus. This increased effort can lead to eye strain, which is a common cause of headaches. Prolonged activities like reading or staring at screens can exacerbate this strain.


Dry eyes can cause inflammation of the ocular surface. This inflammation can extend to surrounding tissues, potentially leading to discomfort and headaches.

Migraine Triggers

For individuals prone to migraines, dry eyes can be a trigger. The discomfort and irritation caused by dry eyes can initiate a migraine episode, adding to the overall discomfort.

Managing Dry Eye-Related Headaches

Addressing the root cause of dry eyes is crucial for alleviating associated headaches. Here are some strategies to consider:

Regular Eye Exams

Scheduling regular eye exams at Total Focus Family Optometry Centre ensures that your eye health is monitored and any issues are promptly addressed. Our skilled optometrists can provide personalized treatment plans tailored to your needs.

Hydration & Humidification

Staying hydrated and using a humidifier can help maintain the moisture levels in your eyes and reduce dryness.

Turning a Blind Eye to Dry Eyes: Not an Option for Headache Relief

Dry eye syndrome can significantly impact your quality of life, including causing headaches. Understanding this connection is the first step toward finding effective relief. Total Focus Family Optometry Centre is committed to offering comprehensive eye care solutions that address both dry eye symptoms and their related complications, ensuring your eyes stay healthy and comfortable.Don’t let dry eyes and headaches disrupt your life any longer. Schedule an appointment with Total Focus Optometry today to receive a comprehensive eye exam and personalized treatment plan. Our experienced team is here to help you achieve clearer, more comfortable vision and a headache-free life.

Written by Dr. Craig M

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