Dry eye happens when your eyes don’t make enough tears to stay wet, or when your tears don’t work correctly. This can make your eyes feel uncomfortable, and in some cases it can also cause vision problems.
Normally, glands above your eyes make tears that keep your eyes wet. Dry eye happens when your tears can’t keep your eyes wet enough.
Am I at risk for dry eye?
You may be more likely to get dry eye if you are:
- Age 50 or older. As you get older, your body has to work harder to make tears.
- A woman. The hormone changes that happen during pregnancy and menopause (when a woman stops getting her period) can make it harder for your body to make tears.
What else can cause dry eye?
Other causes of dry eye include:
- Medicines. Dry eye can be a side effect of some medicines that treat conditions like colds and allergies, depression, and high blood pressure.
- Health problems. Some health problems — including diabetes, thyroid problems, and autoimmune disorders like lupus or Sjögren syndrome — can cause dry eye.
- Laser eye surgery. After some types of laser surgery, your eyes may produce fewer tears. Ask your eye doctor how long this side effect usually lasts, and let them know if you have any questions or concerns.
- Windy, smoky, or dry environments. Spending time in these types of places can cause your tears to dry up faster and lead to dry eye.
- Looking at screens for long periods of time. You may blink less when looking at computer or tablet screens, which can lead to dry eye.
What is Sjögren syndrome?
Sjögren syndrome is an autoimmune disorder (a type of health problem where your immune system attacks healthy parts of your body by mistake). If you have Sjögren syndrome, your body attacks the glands that make tears and saliva, causing dry eye, dry mouth, and trouble swallowing.
Anyone can have Sjögren syndrome, but women ages 40 to 50 are at higher risk. People with Sjögren syndrome often have another autoimmune disorder as well — like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
There’s no cure for Sjögren syndrome, but you and your doctor can work together to find ways to manage your symptoms.