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Can Dry Eyes Cause Blurriness?

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A man sitting at a desk in an office with his laptop and holding his glasses in his right hand as he rubs his eyes

Many of us have experienced dry eyes, especially in these digital-centric times. It’s that gritty, uncomfortable feeling, often accompanied by redness.

But dry eyes can also cause blurriness, making it difficult to face your day as you normally do. It’s not the only cause of blurry vision, and some are more dangerous than others. So, how do you tell exactly what’s making your world a bit hazier than usual? Your friendly neighbourhood optometrist can examine your symptoms and help you find answers—and relief!

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye is more than just a temporary annoyance. It’s a chronic condition where the eye doesn’t produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. The tear film is crucial for clear vision. It nourishes the eye’s front surface, helps provide clear vision, and keeps the eye free of dust and other particles.

There are 2 types of dry eye disease people experience:

  • Evaporative dry eyes: The most common type of dry eye is evaporative, where your tears are low-quality and evaporate too fast.
  • Aqueous deficiency dry eyes: With aqueous deficiency dry eyes, your body doesn’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes hydrated.

Anyone can experience dry eyes, though some lifestyle and health factors can increase your risk. Factors that contribute to dry eyes include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants
  • Hot, dry, or windy environments
  • Autoimmune conditions, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammatory skin disorders around the eyelids
  • Digital screen use
  • Excessive contact lens wear
  • Laser eye surgery

Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eye disease symptoms can range from intermittent discomfort to consistent irritation and include:

  • Redness
  • Stinging, scratchiness, or a gritty feeling
  • Light sensitivity
  • Stringy mucus
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurriness

Recognizing your symptoms is the first step in finding relief and protecting your eyes from unnecessary damage. One of your tears’ main jobs is to protect your cornea, the eye’s clear front dome. A healthy tear film washes away particles that land on the cornea. However, chronic dryness can leave you unprotected and cause corneal damage or scarring.

How Do Dry Eyes Cause Blurriness?

The mechanisms behind how dry eyes lead to blurry vision are complex. Your tear film’s outer layer is responsible for keeping it smooth and uniform and preventing it from drying up too fast. Evaporative dry eye can affect this layer.

That means the tear film can become uneven when the eye is dry. This irregularity causes light to scatter and not focus properly on the retina, leading to blurriness, much like astigmatism.

Ironically, you may also produce extra tears as your eyes try to relieve the irritation. This excess of uneven tears can affect your vision. Imagine living your life looking through a glass of water.

The Link Between Dry Eyes & Blurriness 

Sudden blurred vision happens for many reasons, some more severe than others.

Moreover, some conditions can cause dry eyes and blurriness, complicating diagnosis. One common condition that fits these criteria is becoming more prevalent as digital screens fill our lives: computer vision syndrome.

Also called digital eye strain, this condition results from the extended use of digital screens and can cause dry eyes and blurry vision.

The simple fact is people tend to blink less when looking at screens. This can be as little as 4 times per minute when the average is 17 times per minute. Lack of blinking makes your tear film evaporate, making your eyes tired and lose focus.

If you’re feeling the strain of computer time, take regular breaks and use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Dry Eye Prevention & Management

You can take simple yet impactful measures to help prevent dry eyes, including:

  • Regularly taking breaks from electronic devices
  • Keeping hydrated
  • Using a humidifier in dry indoor environments
  • Avoiding windy conditions
  • Getting enough sleep

However, these lifestyle changes sometimes aren’t enough and require professional dry eye therapy. If you’re experiencing blurriness due to dry eyes, treatment options can include:

  • Artificial tear drops or ointments
  • Prescription eye drops
  • In-office treatments
  • Punctal plugs

Your eyes are unique, and so are your dry eye symptoms. This means treatment plans should be personalized to address your needs and provide comprehensive relief.

Close-up of a woman undergoing a slit-lamp exam

Dry Eye Therapy in Milton

Dry eyes aren’t just fleeting discomforts—they can lead to ongoing vision issues. You can manage or even prevent dry eye symptoms with proactive measures and professional guidance, promoting clear vision.

While self-care strategies are beneficial, it’s crucial to consult an eye care professional if you experience persistent dry eyes and related blurriness. At Milton Eye and Vision Care, we can provide a tailored treatment plan to help alleviate symptoms and safeguard your vision health.

Remember, your eyes are precious, and caring for them is essential to a vibrant and unimpeded view of the world. Start the journey to clear eyesight and book your appointment for dry eye relief today!

Written by Dr. Ronald Nicholas Strohan

Dr. Strohan has been an integrative optometrist in the Milton, Ontario area for over 40 years and has always stayed true to his philosophy of focusing on excellent patient eye care. He has studied behavioural optometry for more than 4 decades and is passionate about providing clear vision for patients of all ages. He takes pride in offering the latest eye care products and advancements in vision therapy.
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