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Can Stress & Anxiety Cause Dry Eye?

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Stressed women touching face and experiencing dry eyes as result

Ever wonder what causes dry eye disease? Your optometrist can diagnose the technical aspects of what causes dry eye.

But what is dry eye? Can it be avoided? What are some of the causes of dry eye? And can stress and anxiety play a part? Let’s dive deeper.

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye occurs when your tears cannot provide an adequate amount of lubrication for your eyes. Your eyes dry out, and as a result, the dreaded dry eye symptoms settle in. Dry eyes can be very uncomfortable and leave you scratching and tending to your eyes multiple times throughout the day.  

The easy part is that dry eye can have many symptoms that alert you to its presence—some of these symptoms include:

  • A burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
  • Mucus in or around your eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye redness
  • Difficulty with nighttime driving
  • Blurred vision or eye fatigue

If you come across these symptoms, you may be suffering from dry eye. While it’s possible that these symptoms may fade away and correct themselves on their own but if prolonged signs of these symptoms persist, getting in touch with your optometrist is advised! 

What can be done to help when these symptoms appear, and you’re searching for relief? Let’s take a look.

Finding Relief From Dry Eye

With something as uncomfortable as dry eye, the desire for relief is normal, and there are certain treatments that can provide that relief.

Some of these treatments include

  • Eye drops which are one of the most common treatments
  • Punctal plugs that your doctor can provide as a more permanent solution
  • Using a humidifier at home to improve your environment
  • Limiting time staring at a screen for long periods
  • Good eyelid hygiene

These methods can help you alleviate the discomfort that comes with dry eyes. As mentioned before, if these symptoms persist and your discomfort remains, your best course of action is to contact your optometrist.

Now that you know what dry eye is and the symptoms, let’s explore the main causes.

What Causes Dry Eye?

There are several causes of dry eye, but almost all fall under 2 separate categories: insufficient tear volume and poor tear quality.

Insufficient tear volume refers to the lack of tears that your meibomian and lacrimal glands produce. 

  • Meibomian glands play a crucial part in maintaining the integrity of the tear film along your eyelids. Meibomian glands release oil to reduce the evaporative process in the eyes.
  • Lacrimal glands are located above your eyes and help tears spread across the surface of your eye when you blink.

Poor tear quality refers to a lack of certain ingredients used in your tear film, including meibum (oil), water, and mucin.

With the technical aspect in mind, let’s take a look at some of the causes of dry eye, which include: 

  • Exposure to the wind or dry air
  • Allergies
  • LASIK eye surgery
  • Aging
  • Long-term contact lens wear
  • Not blinking enough and preventing your glands from doing their magic!
  • Certain oral medications 

These are all contributing causes to dry eye, but where does that leave stress and anxiety as a cause of dry eye? 

Stressed women that is working on laptop is experiencing dry eye

Can Stress & Anxiety Contribute to Dry Eye?

With some of the leading causes of dry eye and the technical aspect explored, that begs the question, can stress and anxiety contribute to dry eye? Technically the answer is yes; however, this requires further explanation.

Stress can exacerbate your already existing dry eye and result in an aggravation of your anxiety.

The causing factors of dry eye can be made worse with neglect, which can stem from the stress and anxiety you may be feeling from these symptoms. Ignoring these symptoms can result in a prolonged state of discomfort.

For people with dry eyes, each blink can be irritating and uncomfortable, so finding relief can become a necessity to alleviate any stress and anxiety that comes from the condition. 

Understanding Dry Eye

Dry eye can be an unforgiving condition that’s important to understand and treat. Allowing the symptoms to drag on can add to your stress and anxiety, compounding the discomfort you’ll be feeling throughout the process.

Book an appointment with your optometrist today for more information and if you feel any dry eye symptoms coming on. Find relief today!

Written by Dr. Asim Prasad

Dr. Asim Prasad is a native Calgarian who earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Vision Science and Doctor of Optometry degree from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 2008. Before becoming an optometrist, Dr. Prasad earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Alberta. After working in the environmental science industry for a short time, Dr. Prasad decided to pursue his true passion: optometry.
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