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Do Dry Eyes Cause Blurry Vision?

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Many people diagnosed with dry eye syndrome can tell you: dry eye symptoms are no joke. Dry eyes can result in a scratchy, burning sensation that makes it difficult to focus on everyday tasks. It can also make it harder to see, as dry eyes can cause blurry vision.

Fortunately, you don’t have to deal with dry eyes alone. An optometrist can inspect your eye and tear health with a comprehensive eye exam. Once we know what’s causing your symptoms, we can determine what treatment plan can help you get the relief you deserve.

Understanding Your Tear Film

Simply put, dry eyes can occur when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or your tears evaporate too quickly. These types of dry eyes are called aqueous deficiency dry eyes and evaporative dry eyes, respectively. There’s a good chance evaporative dry eye is behind your symptoms, as over 85% of cases are due to evaporative dry eye.

However, both types of dry eye disease can affect your tear film, a layer of proteins, enzymes, and water that works to protect and nourish your eyes. 

Your tear film has 3 layers that normally work together in balance:

  • An inner mucus layer produced by the conjunctiva (the thin membrane over your eyes) that helps keep your tear stuck to your eyes.
  • A middle watery layer that makes up most of the tear film and helps keep your eyes hydrated, protected, and healthy.
  • An outer oily layer produced by meibomian glands in the eyelids that helps stop your tears from evaporating too fast.

While aqueous deficiency dry eyes occur when your lacrimal glands don’t make enough tears, evaporative dry eyes can feel confusing since you may be making plenty of tears, yet your eyes still feel dry and irritated. Evaporative dry eye is often caused by meibomian gland dysfunction, where the glands that produce the oily layer of your tear film become inflamed or blocked.

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can include:

  • Red eyes
  • Scratchiness, burning, or stinging
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive tears
  • Stringy mucus around the eye
  • Blurry Vision

Risk Factors for Dry Eye Syndrome

A few different factors can increase your risk of developing dry eyes, including:

  • Age
  • Biological sex
  • Medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, or blood pressure medicine
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Dry, hot, or windy environments
  • Digital eye strain
A young woman rubbing her temples and closing her eyes while working in front of an open laptop

How Do Dry Eyes Cause Blurry Vision?

Many health issues list both dry eyes and blurry vision as common symptoms, making it potentially complicated to figure out how they’re connected. For example, while dry eyes can cause blurry vision, the opposite isn’t true. This means if your other dry eye symptoms resolve, but you still have blurriness, it could be due to other eye conditions, and you should let your optometrist know.

Still, dry eyes can cause blurry vision in several ways, including:

Overproduction of Tears

Dryness can trigger your eyes to make more tears for relief. However, the resulting overabundance of tears may make it harder to see.

Tears can refract light and blur your vision as you try to blink them away. You know what we’re talking about if you’ve ever looked through a cup of water or spotted something at the bottom of a swimming pool.

Corneal Damage

The cornea is the clear dome at the front of your eyes that keeps them protected and focuses light so you can see clearly. With dry eyes, however, your cornea may be left exposed.

Debris, usually washed away by tears, can collect on your cornea and cause scratches when your eyes are dry. This damage can change how light enters the eye, leading to blurry vision. This is why it’s important to avoid rubbing your eyes—you could cause an abrasion that may lead to further complications.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses have a complicated relationship with dry eyes. Soft contact lenses may absorb water from the eye’s surface, leading to dry eyes. And when your eye is dry, it can make wearing contact lenses more difficult. Contact lenses have to be fitted to your eyes, so these little differences can have significant effects on your vision.

The good news is that some contacts can be helpful for people with dry eyes, such as scleral lenses, which can vault over the cornea and create a fluid reservoir to hydrate the eye’s surface. This means they can both help with dry eye treatment and help provide clear vision for those with other conditions that affect their cornea.

Advanced Treatments for Dry Eyes

Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care is home to The Dry Eye Treatment Center of Connecticut. We can diagnose your symptoms and determine a treatment plan to help you find relief. 

We offer a wide range of dry eye treatments, from in-office procedures to at-home methods, including:

If you’re living with blurry vision caused by dry eyes, our experienced team is ready to help you find long-lasting vision comfort again. Enjoy the relief that can come with dry eye treatment, and book an appointment in Plainville today!

Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Written by Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Dr. Donald J. Higgins is the founder and Medical Director of the Dry Eye Treatment Center of Connecticut, a clinic specializing in diagnosing and treating dry eye disease. This clinic features Tear Lab, Oculus with Crystal Dry Eye Report, Equinox LLLT, Lipiflow, and Lumenis OptiLight treatments.

Dr. Higgins decided to become an eye doctor his junior year in high school and has never looked back. In his undergraduate studies, Dr. Higgins received the Trustees Prize in Science, the highest award presented to a science student. He graduated from Boston College in 1978 and began attending the New England College of Optometry. After graduating in 1982, he returned to his hometown of Plainville and has been in private practice ever since.

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