What Causes Dry Eyes? The In-depth Answers You’re Looking For

Unfortunately certain medical conditions as well as medications are the main culprits when it comes to our eyes drying out. It’s not like having one problem is enough, you now have two. In some cases, this isn’t the case at all, as the problem lies solely with the eyes. We will take a look at the different conditions and medications that cause Dry Eye Syndrome.

Medical Conditions That Cause Dry Eye

There are numerous different medical conditions that can cause your eyes to either dry out or aggravate eyes that are already experiencing excessive dryness. Here’s a look at some of the medical conditions that can contribute and/or cause dry eyes:

  • Aging – Aging is a natural process. Most women who begin to experience menopause, also experience dry eyes. Hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, lactation and menstruation may also increase dry eye symptoms. Read more about dry eyes & aging.
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome – Sjogren’s Syndrome is a non-life threatening, yet devastating disease that causes excessive dryness throughout your body. Its victims are mainly women, and unfortunately Sjogren’s is often misdiagnosed with menopause. It causes extreme dryness in the eyes and mouth, as well as other locations in the body.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis - Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation of the tissue around the joints, as well as in other organs in the body. Inflammation occurs also around that eyes and mouth, which causes both to dry out excessively.
  • Collagen Vascular Disease – Collagen is a tough, glue-like protein that represents 30% of body protein and shapes the structure of tendons, bones, and connective tissues. Malfunctioning of the immune system can affect these structures. This is when it becomes known as collagen vascular disease. Excessive dryness of the eyes is a major affect this disease has on its patients.
  • Dry Tear Film- Your tear film has 3 layers: Oil, Water and Mucus. Problems with any one of these layers can create dry eyes. Here’s a glimpse at all three:
    • Oil: The outer layer, produced by small glands on the edge of your eyelids (Meibomian glands), contains fatty oils called lipids. These smooth the tear surface and slow evaporation of the middle watery layer. When the oil layer is abnormal, the watery layer evaporates too quickly.
    • Water: The middle layer, which is by far the thickest layer, is mostly water with a little bit of salt. This layer, produced by the tear glands (lacrima l glands), cleanses your eyes and washes away foreign particles or irritants.
    • Mucus: The inner layer of mucus allows tears to spread evenly over the surface of your eyes. Dry spots form easily in any part of the front surface of the eye (cornea) that has patchy loss of the mucus layer.
  • Eye Problems - Some people are born with structural problems within their eyes, and some people begin experiencing eye problems as they grow older. In some cases, eyelids don’t close properly which allows for excessive tear evaporation. Other cases involve problems with the tear ducts not producing tears. Poor blink functions can also decrease the continuous spread of your tears throughout your eyes, which helps keep them moist.
  • LASIK – Refractive eye surgeries such as laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) also may cause decreased tear production and dry eyes. Symptoms of dry eyes related to these procedures are usually temporary.

Medications That Cause Dry Eyes

Unfortunately when we take medications for one reason or another, they have side effects. There are numerous different medications that can either increase the dryness of your eyes, or cause your eyes to dry out. People respond differently to medications where one person might have no side effects and another taking the same medication will have several complications. Here’s a look at some of the different medications that have been reported to cause dry eyes:

  • Antihistamines - Antihistamines and decongestants may help reduce allergies, but studies show that these drugs also contribute to decrease of tear film production. Zyrtec and Claritin are the most popular antihistamines used.
  • Antidepressants - Antidepressants are known to cause ocular drying, or the drying of your eyes. Celexa, Lexepro, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, and Paxil are all antidepressants that have reportedly made conditions worse.
  • Sleeping Pills – Side effects including dizziness, confusion, drowsiness the next day, dry mouth and dry eyes. Over-the-counter sleep aids, as well as prescription sleep aids will cause these side effects.
  • Birth Control Pills - Many pills list dry eye as a side effect, mainly because birth control pills mess with your hormones. They say stop the pills, and stop the dryness. However, pregnancy is also known to cause dry eyes.
  • Diuretics - These drugs are mostly used to treat high blood pressure.
  • ACE Inhibitors - Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are mostly used to treat high blood pressure.
  • Isotretinoin-Type Drugs – These drugs are mostly used to treat acne conditions.
  • Opiates - Opiate-based medicines such as morphine that help treat extreme pain.
This article was last updated on 07/2014