What Causes Dry Eye

Dry eye syndrome (DES) has many causes that can develop overtime and with ageing.

These include:


1.)Chronic environmental exposures: such as a dry and windy climate, smoke exposure and air conditioning exposure. These all speed tear evaporation and lead to eye irritation

2.)Autoimmune diseases: Conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and Sjögren’s syndrome all affect the ability of lacrimal glands to secrete tears. Here is a link to the British Sjögren’s Syndrome Society website.

3.)Decreased corneal sensation: Conditions that decrease corneal sensation include diabetes, herpes zoster, long-term contact lens usage and previous surgery to the cornea (i.e. LASIK).


4.)Common medications: Both prescription and over-the-counter medication can cause dry eyes by reducing tear secretion. These medications include:

  • Diuretics for high blood pressure;

  • Beta-blockers for heart problems, migraine or high blood pressure;

  • Antihistamines for allergies;

  • Sleeping pills;

  • Anti-anxiety medications;

  • Pain relievers.


Please inform your ophthalmologist if you are taking any medications. Please bring a list of your medications to your consultation if you can.

In addition to these medications, topical eye drops or gels that contain preservatives can irritate the eye. This is why preservative-free eye medications are preferred.

For more detailed information about the classification of dry eye syndrome a link to an international collaboration – the Dry Eye Workshop report (2007) – is provided. Please click here