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Can Dry Eye Cause Headaches?

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If you’ve ever experienced dry eyes, you know how irritating the symptoms can be. Your eyes might feel dry, uncomfortable, or even feel as if something is stuck in them. Sometimes, you may notice that you experience headaches and dry eyes at the same time. 

Both dry eyes and headaches are common conditions that affect many Canadians. Sometimes, it can even feel like these two conditions are connected. But are they? 

Keep reading to learn more about dry eye disease and the possible connection to headaches and migraines. 

What is Dry Eye?

Dry Eye disease occurs when there is an issue with your tear film. Your tear film is a fluid layer that covers the surface of your eye. It consists of three layers which each serves an important purpose in keeping your eyes healthy:

Dry eye can be the result of an issue with any one of these layers. 

The Two Types of Dry Eye 

There are two types of dry eye that can affect your eye health. 

Evaporative Dry Eye

Evaporative dry eye is the most common form of dry eye. Evaporative dry eye occurs when there is a lack of the oil layer in your tears. If your tears don’t have enough oil, they may evaporate too quickly, drying your eyes out. 

Aqueous Tear Deficiency

The other common type of dry eye disease is aqueous deficient dry eye. This type of dry eye occurs if you lack a proper aqueous layer in your tears. If this happens, your eyes can’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes moist. 

What Causes Dry Eyes?

There are many different causes of dry eye disease, including: 

  • Medical procedures 
  • Windy or dry environments
  • Seasonal or chronic allergies 
  • Health problems 
  • Certain medications
  • Long-term contact lens wear
  • Prolonged screen use 
  • Lack of proper hydration 

The only way to find out the cause of your dry eye is to get an eye exam. During an eye exam, your optometrist will look at your family history, your medical history and perform a series of tests to determine the root cause of your symptoms.  

Dry Eyes & Headaches 

Several studies have found a link between dry eye disease and headaches, but It isn’t clear what causes the connection between dry eyes and migraines.

The Relationship Between Dry Eyes & Headaches

Even though there is much more research needed to understand the relationship between dry eyes and headaches, it has been shown that: 

  1. The odds of having dry eye disease increased by 20% in people who experience headaches regularly.  
  2. Dry eyes can cause differences in the length, symptoms, or severity of headaches experienced by an individual. 
  3. If someone is prone to headaches, they may be triggered by changes in the eyes, including dry eye symptoms. 
  4. Headaches and dry eyes share common symptoms such as sensitivity to light, eye pain, and swelling. 

Potential Causes 

More research is needed to assess the relationship between dry eyes and headaches. It still isn’t clear if either condition causes the other or just symptoms of one another. 

Both dry eyes and headaches can be caused by many of the same things, including:

  • Certain medications
  • The structure of your eye
  • Eye injury or illness

Treating & Preventing Dry Eyes

If you find that you’re experiencing dry eyes and headaches at the same time regularly, you should request an appointment with your optometrist to determine the cause. One may be causing the other, or they could be the result of something else entirely.

Your optometrist can diagnose your dry eye, identify some of the potential causes, and help you manage any symptoms you are experiencing. 


There are many treatments available to treat dry eye syndrome, depending on the type and severity of your condition. 

At Dr. Bishop & Associates, we specialize in dry eye care. Our dry eye clinic uses the following treatments to treat and manage dry eye:

  • Artificial tears or ointments
  • Medicated eye drops
  • Oral medication
  • Lid hygiene techniques
  • Nutritional supplements 
  • BlephEx
  • Manual expressions
  • Punctal plugs
  • Lipiview
  • Eye Light: Combination of intense pulse light (IPL) and low light therapy (LLLT)

Can You Prevent Dry Eyes? 

If your dry eyes and headaches are connected, there are precautions you can take to prevent your eyes from drying out. If possible, try to avoid:

  • areas with low humidity
  • areas with air pollution
  • bright sunlight
  • excessive screen time

If you have any questions or concerns about dry eye disease and its relation to headaches, contact us today!

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