Yes, but it is uncommon. Dry eye is when the eyes do not produce enough tears to lubricate the eyes. The symptoms include irritation and sensitivity to light. Without treatment, it can lead to serious complications, including vision loss.

In extreme cases, dry eye may damage the eyes or cause an infection. These complications can cause partial vision loss or blindness.

This article explains the effects of dry eye on vision.

Yes, in rare cases. Mild to moderate cases of dry eye will not likely cause permanent damage or infection that can lead to blindness, especially if a person receives treatment.

More severe cases of dry eye can damage the cornea — the eye’s outer, clear layer. When damage occurs there, it can lead to impaired vision.

Corneal damage can cause blurry or cloudy vision and also lead to blindness. Corneal damage is a leading cause of blindness globally, most commonly in low or middle-income countries.

What are the long-term effects of dry eye?

Dry eye can lead to various health complications. These include:

  • a decreased ability to perform daily tasks, such as driving and reading
  • damage to the eyes, including corneal scratches and ulcers, which can lead to scars on the cornea
  • an increased risk of infection

Certain infections can lead to vision complications, including blurry vision and vision loss.

Can dry eye cause permanent damage?

Yes, dry eye can cause permanent damage if the cornea gets scratched. Minor scratches will likely heal, but if scars form, they can cause long lasting vision problems.

When damage occurs to the cornea, a doctor may recommend various treatments. The options may include:

  • eye patches
  • ointments or drops
  • special contact lenses
  • anti-inflammatory eye drops
  • antibiotics
  • autologous serum tears

If these treatments prove ineffective, the doctor might recommend a corneal transplant to help restore clear vision. During this procedure, a surgeon removes all or part of the damaged cornea and replaces it with donor tissue. Most corneal transplants are successful initially, but some may fail due to the immune system attacking the implant.

Yes, dry eye can cause issues ranging from mild vision impairment to blindness.

Dry eye often causes symptoms such as sensitivity to light, increased tear production, and blurry vision. With treatment, these symptoms should go away.

More severe or untreated cases of dry eye can lead to permanent vision loss, including blindness.

A person should talk with an eye doctor if they experience dry eye symptoms so they can undergo treatment for the condition and minimize the risk of complications.

Dry eye can be temporary and last for a few hours to months, or it may be permanent.

Temporary dry eye typically has an acute cause, such as exposure to allergens or staring at a screen for too long.

Chronic dry eye occurs when the condition and symptoms last for days, weeks, or months.

In either case, a person should seek treatment for dry eye and any underlying condition that may be causing it.

A doctor can often help a person treat dry eye and avoid complications. If the symptoms persist, even with treatment, a person should let the doctor know. The doctor can likely suggest other treatment options to address the condition.

Sometimes. Dry eye may resolve when a person eliminates or reduces exposure to a trigger. Possible triggers of acute dry eye include:

  • staring at a computer, TV, tablet, or smartphone screen for extended periods
  • dry air
  • changes in the weather
  • allergies
  • pollutants

Dry eye due to irritants or screen use may resolve when people avoid those triggers. Dry eye due to an underlying condition or an uncontrollable risk factor, such as aging, may be more difficult to relieve.

Possible causes and risk factors for dry eye include:

  • underlying medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or Sjögren’s disease
  • the use of certain medications, such as blood pressure medications or antidepressants
  • complications from surgery or long-term contact use
  • aging, as dry eye tends to occur more frequently as a person ages
  • sex, as dry eye is more common in females due to the hormonal changes that result from pregnancy, birth control pills, and menopause

Addressing underlying health conditions or changing medications may help prevent dry eye from occurring.

Ongoing treatment may be necessary for dry eye. Some treatment options include:

  • lifestyle adjustments, such as avoiding smoke, using a humidifier, getting regular sleep, limiting screen time, wearing contacts less frequently, and staying hydrated
  • OTC eye drops, such as artificial tears
  • tear duct plugs to prevent tears from draining too quickly
  • prescription eye drops to help produce more tears
  • eyelid surgery if dry eye is due to eyelid problems, such as ectropion, a condition in which the eyelids turn outward

Dry eye can lead to vision loss and even blindness without treatment. A person should speak with a doctor if they experience ongoing symptoms of dry eye. Doctors can recommend medications, suggest lifestyle adjustments, and treat any underlying causes.

Treatment can help prevent worsening symptoms and complications, such as vision loss.