What are the Most Common Dry Eye Symptoms?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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Dry eye symptoms can be very uncomfortable and can interfere with your life. While healthy eyes produce fluid consistently to stay moisturized and keep vision clear, some people's eyes do not produce enough fluid, resulting in discomfort and reduced function. Dry eyes are caused by a reduction in natural tears, or an imbalance in the tear fluid. While eyes should have a thin film of moisture covering their surface at all times in order to work properly, dry spots can emerge if tear production is faulty. Dry eye symptoms are fairly easy to notice.

One of the most common dry eye symptoms is burning, itching, or stinging in the eye. Some people respond by rubbing their eyes, which makes the problem worse. Other dry eye symptoms include stringy mucus in or around the eye, noticeable tearing, and increased sensitivity to light, smoke, and wind. People suffering from dry eyes often have difficulty wearing contact lenses and may suffer from blurred vision or eye fatigue, particularly after reading or late in the day.

It may seem contradictory that tearing is a symptom of dry eyes. This is because the eyes produce two types of tears. In addition to the basic tears that keep the eye functioning, reflex tears are triggered by emotions or by eye irritation.


While basic tears come in a steady, light stream, reflex tears are produced in greater quantities, but only temporarily. Reflex tears also differ from regular tears in that they contain much more water, and consequently much less mucus and oils, making them dry up more quickly. Because of their different composition, reflex tears do not help lubricate dry eyes the way regular tears do.

While dry eye symptoms are not always a cause of concern, it is important to see a doctor is they persist for a long time or become worse. If dry eyes cause problems with vision, it is especially important to seek medical help. Prescription eye drops are available to treat the problem. In extreme cases, dry eyes can cause scarring and infection on the cornea if left untreated. However, dry eye symptoms can simply be a temporary problem due to tiredness, or unusually high levels of wind or smoke in the air, in which case they should resolve on their own after the underlying problem is dealt with.



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