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Can Dry Eyes Cause Headaches?

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Dealing with headaches can be a real pain. They can disrupt one’s day, causing discomfort and affecting our overall well-being. But what if we told you that the source of your headaches could lie in a place you least suspect—your eyes? While it may not be a common symptom, dry eyes can cause headaches.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to dealing with dry eyes. So, if you’re dealing with persistent dry eye symptoms that lead to uncomfortable symptoms like headaches, it’s a good idea to book an exam with your eye doctor. They can examine your eyes and review your symptoms to offer a tailored approach to getting you the relief you need.

Understanding Dry Eyes

Dry eye disease, also called dry eye, is a common condition that affects the eye’s tear film. Either the eye doesn’t produce enough tears to maintain lubrication, or it produces poor-quality tears that lead to premature tear evaporation.

Causes of Dry Eyes

There are several potential causes of dry eye:

  • Age
  • Certain medications
  • Medical conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or Parkinson’s disease
  • Genetics
  • Environmental conditions like dry air, dust, wind, or allergens
  • Hormonal changes
  • UV exposure

Symptoms & Effects on Eye Health

Chronic dry eye can lead to a host of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • A stinging or burning sensation in your eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision or eye fatigue
  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Increased eye irritation

Prolonged dryness from untreated chronic dry eye can lead to complications, such as damage to the cornea, inability to wear contact lenses, and a greater risk of eye infections. So, it’s important to discuss treatment options with your eye doctor and not treat it as a minor inconvenience.

The Link Between Dry Eyes & Headaches

You may notice that headaches weren’t listed in the symptoms above. This doesn’t mean that dry eyes can’t cause headaches, though.

How Dry Eyes Can Lead to Headaches

We don’t know how exactly dry eyes and headaches are connected. However, one connection researchers have made is that migraine sufferers are more likely to have dry eyes and experience dry eye symptoms. While not life-threatening by any means, these headaches can be painful and are often underdiagnosed.

Another possible connection is the instability in the tear film. A disrupted tear film can affect the light refraction in your eyes, which can lead to headaches. This change in light refraction is one reason many people experience light sensitivity as a dry eye symptom.

Impact of Eye Strain on Headaches

Excessive focus on digital screens, without the necessary breaks or eye care, can lead to digital eye strain, which can cause headaches. This is particularly common in cases where individuals are not blinking as frequently as they should, contributing to dry eye symptoms.

Tips for Relieving Dry Eyes

There are numerous home remedies you can try to bring relief if you’re experiencing dry eyes:

  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air
  • Take frequent breaks when using screens, and follow the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds
  • Position your computer screen below eye level
  • Stay hydrated because good hydration helps maintain the volume and composition of your tears

Strategies for Headache Management Related to Eye Strain

Managing digital device use is crucial in cases where headaches are related to eye strain:

  • Maintain proper lighting and text size on your devices to reduce strain
  • Consider blue light or anti-glare glasses to minimize the potentially harmful effects of screen time
  • Adopt proper ergonomics—adjust your seat and desk height to level your eyes with the computer screen
A man in an optometry clinic shaking hands with his female optometrist

Prevention & Long-Term Care

Sometimes, a few preventive measures can go a long way in preventing dry eyes and their associated headaches:

  • Make sure your living or working environment doesn’t have overactive air conditioning or heating systems that could dry out the air
  • Regularly clean your eyelids and lashes to help prevent eye irritation and reduce your risk of meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Consciously practice blinking more often, especially at your computer or watching TV

Importance of Regular Eye Check-Ups

Don’t wait for a headache associated with dry eyes to be your first symptom of a potential problem. Regular eye check-ups are crucial for catching and treating dry eye symptoms before they lead to more severe complications.

Talk to Your Eye Doctor About Your Symptoms

Headaches can stem from various places, some more surprising than others. Addressing dry eyes, an often-overlooked condition, can help alleviate headaches and improve overall eye health. By understanding the connection between your eyes and headaches, you’re equipping yourself with more tools to manage and prevent them.Contact our team at Toronto Centre Eye Care today to book an appointment. One of our optometrists can discuss your symptoms and examine your eyes to determine a beneficial treatment plan.

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Written by Toronto Centre Eye Care

For over a decade, the name Toronto Centre Eye Care has been synonymous with professional service and personal care. We pride ourselves on the level of care we offer our patients—going above and beyond the call of duty to identify a problem and recommend an effective solution.

We look forward to getting to know you.

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