Dry eye syndrome comes with a range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms, from itchiness and tearing to inflammation and soreness. But can dry eyes affect your vision and cause blurriness?
When your eyes lack healthy tears, dust particles and debris entering your eyes are not flushed easily. They may scratch and scrape the surface of your eyes.
In mild to moderate cases, this does not cause any permanent damage to your eyes. But in severe cases, recurrent scratching and scraping can lead to corneal inflammation, ulcers, and erosion.
If left untreated, these conditions can impair your vision and even cause blindness.
In this post, we will look at the risk factors and different ways that dry eyes can affect your vision. But first, let’s understand the connection between dry eyes and reduced vision.
How Does Eye Dryness Affect Vision?
Your tears serve various purposes: they keep your eyes lubricated and smooth, wash away irritants, keep infections at bay, and help you see clearly. Yes, you read that right.
Your tear film is the first ocular refractive surface. It helps reduce the scattering of light and enables clear, sharp vision. Without a healthy tear film, your eyes will not be able to focus light on the lens as effectively. This can lead to dry eyes focusing problems.
Moving on, there are two types of dry eye syndrome based on the cause. One is the result of decreased tear production and the other of increased tear evaporation.
Aging, autoimmune disorders, and certain medications can lead to decreased tear production. On the other hand, meibomian gland dysfunction, eyelid problems, eye allergies, and windy conditions generally cause increased tear evaporation.
Both these types of dry eyes can affect you one at a time or simultaneously. The result? Dry, gritty, and sore eyes that are lacking in nutrients and oxygen to stay healthy.
Without these, your eyes can easily get infected. What’s more, constant dryness can scar and thin the cornea over time. This can interfere with your vision.
It’s even possible for your cornea to get inflamed and tear. In most cases, these conditions are treatable. But if left untreated, you may develop permanent vision damage and even vision loss.
Dry Eye Vision Loss Risk Factors
Being older than 50 can make you more likely to develop dry eye vision problems. So can your female hormones and medications. Let’s review these and the other major risk factors for dry eyes and blurriness.
- Age – Dry eye vision changes can be a part of the natural aging process. Studies show that dry eyes is prevalent in people over 50 years since tear production tends to diminish with age.
- Sex – How does dry eye affect vision in females? Well, hormonal changes during pregnancy, oral birth control, and menopause affect estrogen levels which are mostly to blame for dryness.
- Medications – Medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, and decongestants can also affect tear production and cause dry eye cloudiness.
- Environmental factors – Windy, dry, and smoky conditions can cause your tear film to dry up faster, resulting in dry eyes and blurriness.
- Screen time – Your blink rate decreases when looking at digital screens. That means your eyes will not be sufficiently lubricated if you overuse devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones.
- Autoimmune disorders – Several autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome, can also result in your eyes feeling dry.
- Eye surgeries – It’s common to develop dry eyes after undergoing eye surgery to correct refractive errors. But the dry eye effect on vision is generally temporary and resolves in a matter of weeks.
- Nutrient deficiency – Is your diet lacking in Vitamins A and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein? Supplement your diet with ready-to-drink liquids or oral pills to keep dry eyes at bay.
- Contact lenses – Overuse of contact lenses can also increase your risk of dry eyes. If you’re looking to relieve dry eye symptoms, it’s best to switch to eyeglasses. You can also read more about managing dry eyes while wearing contact lenses.
- Eye makeup – The use of mascara, eyeshadow, and eyeliner is another dry eye risk factor. These products may flake and irritate your eyes. They may also block your oil glands and cause meibomian gland dysfunction. Check our makeup tips for dry and sensitive eyes.
7 Ways Dry Eye Affects Your Vision
Mild cases of dry eyes generally cause painful, burning, and scratchy sensations. Long-term problems, however, can develop into severe conditions that may reduce your vision.
Here are seven ways in which dry eyes affect vision and eye health. These include eye infections, corneal ulcers, inflammation, and light sensitivity.
1. Higher Risk of Eye Infection
Your tears serve several functions, including lubricating and nourishing your eyes. But did you know that they also prevent and fight infections? Without adequate tears, you may have a higher risk of eye infections.
Your tear film has antibodies that fight invasion and infection by microbes. These microbes can be airborne. But you can also develop an eye infection by sharing eye makeup, touching your eyes with dirty hands, and even using contaminated eye drops.
In addition, tears supply oxygen to your eyes. Without sufficient oxygen, your cornea can become infected and cause dry eyes vision changes.
2. Corneal Ulcers
Chronic dry eyes, if left untreated, can also result in a corneal ulcer. This is an open sore on the outer layer of your eyes, the cornea.
When dust particles enter your eyes, they are generally washed away by your tears. But with dry eyes, these particles stay in your eyes and continually scratch the surface. If microbes get into the scratch, an infection can develop, causing an ulcer.
Depending on the cause of your ulcer, you might need antibiotic or antiviral eye drops to treat them. If not treated promptly, these can spread and scar your eyeball, resulting in partial or complete blindness, explains the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
3. Corneal Inflammation
Along with corneal ulcers, dry eye vision symptoms can also cause inflammation of the cornea or keratitis, a study shows.
Initially, your tears are not sufficient to wash, soothe, or protect your eyes when you blink. In the later stages, this makes your eyes dry and inflamed, leading to keratitis.
Potential complications of keratitis include corneal scarring, recurrent infections of the cornea, open sores and ulcers, and temporary vision loss. Don’t take this lightly since keratitis may also cause a permanent reduction in your vision and even blindness.
4. Corneal Erosion
Corneal erosion is a recurring breakdown of the cells of your cornea. This is usually the result of chronic eye rubbing due to dry eye syndrome.
With corneal erosion, you may experience sharp pains, a sandy feeling in the eye, tearing, redness, and uncontrollable blinking.
These symptoms often start suddenly. They are painful and can lead to dry eyes, foggy vision, and reduced sight. An eye patch over the affected eye may help. It will prevent you from blinking and making your corneal erosion worse.
5. Inflammation of the Conjunctiva
Untreated dry eyes can lead to conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the conjunctiva. In this, you will most likely have red, sore, and gritty eyes. You may also have pus or mucus discharge. And if that’s not bad enough, conjunctivitis is also communicable.
It’s worth noting, however, that conjunctivitis does not cause any long-term eye complications. You will have a few weeks of discomfort before the infection clears up.
6. Light and Wind Sensitivity
Dry eye syndrome affects your cornea. When you are exposed to light and wind, this protective layer is the first point of contact. That means that if your cornea isn’t well-lubricated, exposure to these elements can cause eye sensitivity.
In mild cases, you may start squinting more often to see clearly. In more severe cases, you may experience considerable pain in a brightly lit room or when you go outside.
Tip: Staying out of sunlight and keeping the lights dimmed can make this condition less uncomfortable. You can also use wraparound glasses outside.
7. Decreased Quality of Life
Dry eye blurriness can make everyday tasks a pain. You will wake up with sore eyes and stringy mucus on most days. And by night, your eyes will feel dried out, inflamed, and tired.
Everyday tasks like reading a book, working on a computer, or driving can become strenuous and painful. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to focus on these tasks when your dry eyes cause blurred vision.
Applying a warm compress or massaging your eyes may provide some relief. These will improve the quality and quantity of your tears and make your vision less blurry.
Keep Your Eyes Healthy
If you’re experiencing dry eyes symptoms, don’t take blurred vision and inflammation for granted. Relieve the dryness with a warm compress or eyelid massage.
You can also work on preventing dry eyes hazy vision in the first place. Add moisture to the air, wear wraparound sunglasses, and avoid dry and polluted areas.
You can also take eye breaks during long tasks, position your computer screen below eye level, and blink often. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and quit smoking.
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SightC packs a powerful blend of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. Together, these nutrients support and enhance eye health and vision.
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