One eye feels perfectly normal. But the other has a dry and sandy sensation you can’t blink away. You’re probably wondering, “Why do I have one dry eye? And is that cause for worry?”

What you’re most likely experiencing is dry eye in one eye. While you may have other dry eye symptoms, the condition isn’t cause for alarm.

But it is important to know what’s happening and why. So, without further ado, let’s understand why you have dry eye symptoms in one eye only.

Can You Get Dry Eye in One Eye?

First, let’s brush up on what this condition is exactly. Dry eye syndrome is when your eyes fail to lubricate themselves. This may happen due to one of two reasons. Either your eyes don’t make enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly.

Generally, dry eye syndrome affects both eyes simultaneously. You may experience symptoms like dryness, irritation, grittiness, inflammation, and pain. Dry eyes can also cause blurry vision and light sensitivity.

Occasionally, you may have more pronounced dry eye symptoms in just one eye. The cause can be anything from a blocked oil gland to an eye injury.

These causes affect tear production or tear film stability in the affected eye. No wonder why you experience severe dry eye in one eye only.

closeup portrait of woman hiding one eye behind broken tree bark with the other blue eye open

Causes of Dry Eye in One Eye

Experiencing sudden dry eye in one eye only is less common than bilateral dry eye. But when it does happen, any of these eight causes may be to blame.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Meibomian glands are tiny, oil-making glands in your eyelids. The oils prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly. But sometimes, meibomian glands can become dysfunctional and cause evaporative dry eyes.

While meibomian gland dysfunction generally affects both eyes, you may have more noticeable symptoms in only one eye. Here are some reasons for that:

  • Asymmetrical gland function Your meibomian glands may not be functioning equally well in both eyes. This could be due to factors like asymmetrical gland structure or blockages within the glands.
  • Eyelid anatomy – Differences in eyelid structure between your left and right eyes can also contribute to more pronounced symptoms in one eye. Because of this, you may have dry eye in the right eye or left eye only.
  • Inflammation or infection – When it comes to dry eye, only one eye may experience localized inflammation or infection in the meibomian glands.

Medical Conditions

Several health conditions can make your eyes dry. These include autoimmune disorders, thyroid, and diabetes. In some cases, they can affect one eye more than the other.

Autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus attack your tear and oil-producing glands. Damage to the structure of these glands may occur, leading to reduced tear and oil production.

In addition, thyroid and diabetes can impact the normal functioning of these glands. As a result, you may have dryness in one or both eyes.

While a warm compress and lid massages might not treat the underlying medical conditions, they will alleviate the dryness. Make sure to reach out to your eye doctor to figure out a treatment plan for your condition.

Contact Lens Wear

Your contact lenses, no matter how hygienically handled, are foreign objects in your eyes. Wearing them for extended periods can interfere with your tear film.

To begin with, contacts absorb your tears to maintain their shape. Poorly fitted contacts can reduce tear circulation and oxygen flow to your cornea. These add up to eye irritation, dryness, and redness.

closeup of female hand holding contact lens on the tip of her finger and contact lens case in her palm

Sometimes, a contact lens in only one eye may be the culprit. If that's the case, remove the lens and flush your eye with water.

Clean the lens properly before wearing it again. You can also switch to eyeglasses to give your eyes a break from contacts.

Eyelid Inflammation

Blepharitis, or eyelid inflammation, is characterized by swelling, redness, and irritation of the eyelids. It plugs up your oil glands, disrupting their normal functioning. What’s more, the dandruff-like flakes add to the eye discomfort.

You may have blepharitis in one eye only. This could be because of a localized infection or allergic reaction specifically in that eye. As for the dry eye symptoms, one eye only may have blepharitis-induced swelling and redness.

But don’t worry. Practicing good eyelid hygiene can offer relief. Apply a warm compress on the affected eye and scrub your eyelids. Doing so will reduce inflammation and remove debris and bacteria.

Eye Injury

If you have injured one of your eyes, don’t be surprised if that one eye feels dry and gritty. Depending on the severity and nature of the injury, you may experience several dry-eye-in-one-eye symptoms.

Anything from a little scratch to trauma can disrupt your tear film. Additionally, eye injuries can damage the structures responsible for tear production.

Dry eyes because of injury can lead to further complications, like potential nerve damage. This can affect your eyelid movement and blinking mechanism. As a result, your tears will not spread evenly across your eyeball, leading to dryness in the injured eye.

Eye Surgery

Eye surgeries to correct refractive errors are generally safe. But they sometimes come with side effects, like dryness and discomfort.

For instance, if you just went through LASIK, be prepared to experience dry eye symptoms as your eyes adjust to their new normal.

That said, can you have dry eye syndrome in only one eye after LASIK? The answer is yes. Dry eye in one eye after LASIK is fairly common.

closeup of woman with one eye covered by a large leaf against blurry green nature background

That’s because the surgery is invasive. It involves creating a corneal flap to reshape your corneal tissues. This can potentially disrupt the nerves in your cornea and lead to dryness in the affected eye.

Exposure to Wind, Smoke, or Dry Air

Are you exposed to dry and windy conditions day in and day out? You’re likely to experience dryness in one or both of your eyes. These conditions increase tear evaporation, leaving your eyes feeling dried out.

Even artificial heating and air conditioning may be to blame. They reduce humidity levels in your home and at work. Smoke and pollutants are even worse. They introduce harmful chemicals and irritants into your eyes.

Now, one of your eyes can be more exposed to these conditions than the other. For instance, if the heat vent is placed on your left, you may have dry eye in your left eye only.


Various medications can cause your eyes to make fewer tears. And the dryness can affect one eye more than the other. Antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants are some common culprits.

They reduce tear production, leading to drying effects on your eyes. They also alter tear composition and disrupt the balance between the oily, watery, and mucous layers.

Certain medications cause systemic side effects that indirectly lead to one dry eye. For instance, if your medicines cause dehydration, you may have reduced tear production.

We devoted an entire post to the medications that can cause dry eyes. You may want to check it out.

The Wrap Up

Several factors can cause dry eye in one eye. These factors are generally localized and impact only one eye. They can be anything from a blocked oil gland, eye injury, ill-fitted contact lens in one eye, and even side effects of eye surgery.

Luckily, you will be able to fix the extreme dry eye in one eye by addressing the root cause of it.

But in some cases, like dryness due to medical conditions or medications, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for an effective treatment plan.

Worried that you may have dry eyes? A quick online test can help you find out. Identifying your condition is the first step to treating it.

Take the Dry Eye Test.

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