Dry eyes and blurry vision are symptoms of dry eye disease. A person may experience these symptoms due to lifestyle or medical factors, such as excessive screen time, dietary factors, and certain conditions.

Dry eye disease describes when the eyes do not produce enough tears to stay moist or when tears do not work correctly. This can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as dry eye, and in some cases can lead to vision problems, such as blurry vision. However, other health problems can be behind constantly dry eyes and blurred vision.

Read on to learn more about potential causes for both dry eyes and blurry vision.

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Dry eyes and blurry vision can both be symptoms of an eye disorder called dry eye disease. Around 16 million people in the U.S. have dry eye disease.

In a 2020 study, 58% of people with chronic dry eye reported moderate-to-very-severe blurred vision, compared with 10.5% of people who did not have the condition.

Dry eye disease occurs when the tear ducts cannot produce enough tears or tears of a high enough quality. This can damage the surface of the eye, known as the cornea.

The damage may then lead to light scattering, which contributes to blurred vision. The eye forms images from light hitting the layer of cells at the back of the eye, known as the retina.

If the see-through parts of the eye are no longer clear, the light passing through it can become scattered and cause the retinal image to appear hazy.

This can make what the eye sees less clear, causing blurred vision.

As well as blurry vision, dry eye has a range of other effects on the eye, including:

  • red eyes
  • the feeling of stinging, burning, scratching, or grittiness
  • making an individual more sensitive to light
  • watering or weeping
  • stringy, mucus-like discharge in the corner of the eye

Several lifestyle and medical factors can cause dry eyes and blurry vision, including:

  • Excessive screen time: This can reduce how often a person blinks, which can mean that the eyelids do not spread tears across the eye as often as they should.
  • Wearing contact lenses: A 2017 review suggests that dry eye discomfort is the most common reason that people stop using contact lenses within 3 years of starting.
  • Dehydration: Not having enough fluids in the body may have links to dry eye disease.
  • Vitamin deficiency: A shortage of certain vitamins in the diet can cause dry eye, especially vitamin A. Not getting enough vitamin A can affect how the glands in the eye function, reducing tear and mucus production.
  • Medication side effects: Some medications make people produce fewer tears, including antihistamines, blood pressure medications, decongestants, and antidepressants.
  • Medical conditions: Autoimmune conditions including lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis can reduce tear production. In these conditions, the immune system attacks otherwise healthy tissue, including the tear and saliva glands.

People who experience dry eyes and blurry vision have several treatment options available. These can include:

  • Artificial tears: These over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops can help to replace tears, keeping the eye moist and comfortable. They’re often the first line of treatment for people with dry eye, but they’re not always effective.
  • Prescription eye drops: If OTC eye drops don’t relieve symptoms, an eye doctor can prescribe stronger medications containing ingredients like cyclosporine and lifitegrast. These can trigger the production of more tears.
  • Lifestyle changes: If excessive screen time or dehydration are causing dry eyes and blurry vision, decreasing screen time and increasing water intake may help.
  • Home remedies: Warm compresses, eye masks, or goggles that warm the eyelids, and eyelid massages may all help to soothe dry eye symptoms.

Taking steps to adjust the daily environment can help to keep dry eyes and blurry vision at bay. These may include:

Home adjustments

Using a humidifier at home and at work, blinking more during screen work, and taking nutritional supplements to correct nutritional imbalances may help to reduce dry eye symptoms.

Environmental protection

Wear wraparound sunglasses while outdoors to protect against winds, sun rays, and pollutants that may all irritate or dry out the eyes. Try to avoid excessively hot, dry, or windy environments where possible.

Managing chronic conditions

If an underlying chronic condition like lupus or Sjögren’s syndrome is behind dry eye symptoms, work with a doctor to manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

Specialist contact lenses

Some types of contact lenses provide more hydration on the surface of the eye than others. People who experience dry eye due to contact lens use might benefit from switching to a different lens.

Dry eye disease can cause dry, scratchy eyes and blurry vision. However, many treatments are available, and changes to daily life can help to reduce discomfort and make vision clearer.

People who have concerns about these symptoms or whose symptoms get worse might benefit from consulting an eye doctor.