Eye Care

10 Reasons Your Eyes Are Dry and Itchy

Dry, itchy, red, and watery eyes happen to all of us at one point or another. But there are a number of reasons why dry eyes might be ruining your day, not to mention your carefully applied eyeliner. Understanding what’s causing your dry eye symptoms can help make sure you’re effectively treating the root cause, and help you know when you need to visit your eye doctor to keep things from getting worse (or causing permanent damage.

Here are the top ten reasons you have dry, itchy eyes.

1. Allergies

From the first bloom in springtime to the dusty indoors of winter to the nuzzles of an exceptionally cute pet, your eyes make their objections known. Known as allergic conjunctivitis, your eyes are doing their part to protect your eyes from a perceived threat. The result is eyes that are itchy and puffy. If you give in to temptation and rub your itchy eyes, it can often lead to redness, watering, burning, and further aggravating the symptoms. Over-the-counter and prescription allergy drops can help alleviate the symptoms. Keep in mind though, antihistamines can contribute to dry eye. Eyelid washing is another great way to help keep irritants like pollen and dander away from your eyes.

2. Screen Time

We promise this isn’t a war on screen time and devices and phones. After all, they connect us to people all over the world and provide a wealth of information like useful health tips (like you might find here) or… let us work well past 5 pm (ugh). In this case, screen time isn’t the enemy. Lack of blinking is. When looking at a screen, your blink rate can slow by as much as 75%, which causes your tear film to evaporate quicker and not replenished as often.

If you spend extended periods in front of your screen for work (or fun), take some time at least every twenty minutes to look away from your screen and blink intentionally. And while you are focused on your screen, pay attention to how often you are blinking and remember to blink often.

3. Blepharitis/Meibomian Gland Disorder

If you’re unfamiliar with Blepharitis and Meibomian Gland Disorder, you can read more about it in this in-depth blog post. Blepharitis happens when bacteria causes eyelid inflammation and causes the Meibomian Glands (which provide the necessary oil to your tear film) to become blocked. In addition to swelling and inflammation, you might also find crusties along your lash line. Adding an eyelid scrub to your daily routine can help wash away some of the bacteria. And a warm compress, like this one from Bruder, is a great way to warm up your Meibomian Glands, release the clogs and get your oils flowing more normally.

While these are great at home remedies, don’t use them in place of a trip to the eye doctor. Leaving your blepharitis or MGD untreated can lead to further, long-term complications.

4. Age/Gender

Dry Eye Disease is certainly more prevalent now than it has been in past years (mostly due to increased time in front of computers, phones and televisions). But when screen time is taken out of the equation, age, sex and even race can all put you at a higher risk for dry eye disease.

Women are almost twice as likely to develop dry disease. This is primarily due to the hormone changes during pregnancy or menopause. Also, people over 50 are more likely to have dry eye disease as tear production tends to decrease with age.

5. Bad Eyelid Hygiene

We wash our faces, brush our teeth, even clean out our ears on the regular, but eyelid washing might not be part of your routine. It should be. Everything from bacteria to pollen and irritants can contribute dry eyes. A good eyelid scrub (or wipes for us lazy folks) will be gentle enough to cleanse your eye area while also wiping away this harmful bacteria, pollen, and pet dander that can cause or aggravate your dry eye disease.

6. Eye Makeup

Just like pollen and bacteria, makeup particles (or irritating formulas) can aggravate your dry eyes, or even block your meibomian glands. It’s important to remove your makeup every night, no matter what, all the time. It’s a pain, but your eyes will thank you. Additionally, stick to cream formulas that are less likely to flake throughout the day or have fallout during application. Also, it might be time to say goodbye to glitter. And definitely don’t put eyeliner on your waterline. With some thoughtful product choices, you can still enjoy or a gorgeous eye look and manage your dry eyes.

7. Contacts

For anyone that wears contacts, this may come as no surprise. Contacts sit in your tear film, but if they’re not properly cared for or are the wrong type, they can absorb you tear film. This will leave you with the dreaded dry eyes. You can combat this by replacing your contacts when you’re supposed to (daily or monthly), never sleeping in your contacts and using drops. If you’re still having issues with your contacts, your eye doctor will help you explore other brands or types of contacts.  

8. Poor Air Quality

Dust, smoke, and pollen can also get in your eyes and affect your tear film. Additionally, dry air and heat can cause your tear film to evaporate more quickly. As much as we would like to control these factors (and stop the raging wildfires every summer), we’re subjected to whatever the weather decides to throw at us. But you can help ease these issues by wearing glasses or goggles, using a humidifier or setting up an air purifier indoors. If nothing else, you can at least point to your smoky summer days as the cause of your dry eye.

9. Preservatives in Eye Drops

Eye drops are supposed to help your dry eyes, right…. right?? More often than not, they are incredibly beneficial for helping you manage your dry eyes. But over the counter drops can have preservatives in them to help maximize shelf life. However, these preservatives can irritate your eyes with prolonged use. Make sure to pay attention to the daily limits for your eye drops, or shop a brand that doesn’t have preservatives, like FreshKote.

10. Eyelash Mites *cringe*

We’ll keep this brief. There are these mites called Demodex that can live on your eyelashes. And they’re more common than you think. But luckily, these mites don’t usually cause any symptoms. If things do get bad, you might experience inflammation, itchiness, eyelashes falling out or general stickiness. Your doctor will need to confirm if these mites are actually causing your issues and help you go from there. Just remember, change your pillowcase, never share makeup, practice good hygiene and try your hardest not have nightmares about the bugs living on your face.

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