Eyes that feel itchy and gritty can often be a sign of dry eye disease. The intensity and duration of these symptoms can determine whether you have mild dry eye, moderate dry eye, or severe dry eye.

In this post, we take a closer look at moderate dry eye disease as well as how it differs from other stages of dry eye.

What Is Moderate Dry Eye?

Moderate dry eye syndrome, also known as moderate dry eye, is a condition that affects the eye’s ability to lubricate itself effectively. If you have moderate dry eye disease, you might have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Gritty feeling in and around the eyes, like having a piece of grit or sand stuck in your eye that you can’t get rid of
  • Dry feeling in and around the eyes
  • Itchiness in the eye area
  • Swollen or puffy-looking eyes
  • Redness of the eyes or redness around the eyes
  • Watery eyes, which might seem strange but isn’t uncommon for people with moderate dry eye as the tears are unable to stick to the eye’s surface
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling the need to blink more

How Does Moderate Dry Eye Differ from Mild Dry Eye?

Talking about dry eye disease in stages might make it sound a little frightening. It’s important to understand that dry eye is usually not serious.

Referring to dry eye in its different stages allows an eye doctor to prescribe effective treatment. Moderate and mild dry eye may seem alike, but they have their differences.

Mild dry eye is characterized by milder symptoms – often dry, itchy eyes. Someone with mild dry eye may find the need to rub their eyes or blink often.

woman with dry eyes keeping her eyes closed to rest them in the red light of a lamp her face seen from below

Overall, the eyes will feel a little irritated and dry. Diagnosing and treating dry eye during this stage can prevent a patient from developing moderate dry eye symptoms. 

Moderate dry eye symptoms are more intense and more persistent than mild dry eye symptoms. They may not go away right away but worsen during the day.

Can You Get Moderate Dry Eye in One Eye?

Most of the time, dry eye at any stage affects both eyes. Despite this, you can develop dry eye in only one eye. You might experience moderate dry eye in one eye for a variety of reasons:

  • Recent surgery on an eye, including cataract removal and LASIK surgery
  • A blockage that affects the production of tears in a single eye
  • Infections or viruses like the common cold
  • Allergies
  • Underlying conditions such as autoimmune disorders like Sjogren’s syndrome that interfere with tear-producing glands
  • Air quality, which can include polluted or dry air, or air containing a lot of dust

It’s worth noting that in some cases both eyes are affected though it doesn’t feel like it. You might experience moderate dry eye symptoms in one of your eyes, but only mild symptoms in the other. This gives the illusion of dry eye in one eye.

What Causes Moderate Dry Eye?

One of the most common moderate dry eye causes is aging. As we grow older, we naturally produce fewer tears. But moderate dry eye doesn’t only affect the older population – many younger people also experience it. To understand this, we need to look at the eye itself.

Tear Film Break-Up

Each person’s eyes have a layer on their surface (the cornea) known as the tear film. The tear film consists of three layers: the aqueous layer, the mucus layer, and the oily layer. These layers combine to allow the tears to stick to the eye surface, evaporate at an effective rate, and lubricate the cornea.

Each time we blink, we spread tears over the cornea. Blinking also thickens the tear film. Between blinks, the tear film naturally begins to break up. The amount of time this takes is what we call Tear Break-Up Time (TBUT). Doctors use this to diagnose dry eye as well as the severity of it.

closeup of woman's bright green eye and light red hair seen through the silver-rimmed lens of her eyeglass

In a normal, healthy eye TBUT takes more than 10 seconds. When you have moderate dry eye, TBUT is between 4 and 7 seconds. The more severe the dry eye, the less time it takes for the tear film to break up.

Moderate Dry Eye Causes

Although age plays a large part in causing dry eye, there are many other factors. These include:

  • Poor air quality
  • Prolonged focus of the eyes without blinking, such as when you are reading, driving, or using a computer screen for long periods
  • Working in poorly lit conditions, which makes the eyes focus more and blink less
  • Smoking, which dries the eyes out
  • Poor diet or lack of vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Hormonal changes linked to menopause – women over 50 years old are almost twice as likely to experience dry eye as men over 50
  • Some medications, including antidepressants and blood pressure medicines
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Underlying health conditions or autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome or lupus

How Can You Prevent Moderate Dry Eye

Although moderate dry eye can be uncomfortable, there is some good news. In most cases, it can be prevented. Spotting your symptoms while they’re mild and reacting to them goes a long way to preventing moderate or more severe dry eye.

Some of the ways you can prevent or lower your risk of moderate dry eye include:

  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry air – this can stop the tear film from evaporating too quickly
  • Take regular breaks during focused tasks to allow your eyes to refocus and rest
  • During long tasks, make sure to blink more often, which is a natural way to keep your eyes lubricated
  • Ensure enough light for the task at hand – when this isn’t possible, for example when you’re driving at night, it’s important to blink more often
  • Quit smoking
  • Ensure you get enough vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids through your diet by eating foods like fatty fish, kidney beans, walnuts, salmon, sweet potatoes, and carrots
  • Take an eye health supplement formulated to nourish your eyes and tear glands such as SightC
  • Avoid air blowing directly into the eyes – this might be as simple as moving your chair away from a nearby fan or air conditioner or using wraparound glasses if you live in an area with high wind

woman in yellow shirt standing with eyes closed outside on windy day with windblown sheet before her on a line and green trees in the background

    Moderate Dry Eye Treatment (Including Home Remedies)

    There are a variety of ways to treat moderate dry eye. You can even use some easy home remedies.

    Again, treating dry eye is most effective when the symptoms are only mild. Doing this can prevent moderate or even severe dry eye.

    If your moderate dry eye symptoms have an underlying physiological cause, your doctor would recommend a targeted treatment for the cause. This may include medicines called cholinergics that stimulate natural tears, closing or plugging the tear ducts, or unblocking the oil glands.

    Most of the time, moderate dry eye treatment is simpler and can be done at home. For more persistent dry eye treatment, eye drops without added preservatives could help. Added preservatives can irritate the eyes over time, leading to worsening symptoms.

    Some of the preventive measures we already mentioned can double as simple home treatments. Good air quality, eye rest, and a healthy diet can often do wonders.

    Perhaps the simplest home treatment is placing a warm compress over your eyes for 5-10 minutes. Doing this daily helps lower inflammation.

    An alternative treatment that might also work is acupuncture. A study into the effects of acupuncture on dry eye has shown it can reduce symptoms.

    You may also want to consider taking an eye health supplement for dry eyes. The Moderate Dry Eye Relief Bundle from Sightsage was formulated to provide relief from dry eyes and eye fatigue.

    Bringing together Blueberry Monk Fruit Gummies and SightC capsules, it’s rich in antioxidants including the macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin as well as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Together, these nourish your eyes and tear glands and support vision health in the digital age.

    Try now the Moderate Dry Eye Relief Bundle.

    The Wrap Up

    Moderate dry eye can be irritating. It can affect the quality of everyday life and reduce your productivity. Over time, it can become more severe if left untreated.

    Even if your dry eye symptoms are only mild, it’s important not to ignore them. Addressing them early can prevent them from worsening.

    Even if the underlying cause of dry eyes is a condition that requires medical treatment, catching it early can help steer the course of your condition and provide relief from symptoms.

    In the end, it’s important to remember that managing dry eyes is under your control. Don’t let the condition become worse than it is.

    Leave a comment

    Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.