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Can Dry Eyes Cause Blurry Vision?

A point of view of a person with blurry vision reaching out towards their glasses.

Dry eyes are uncomfortable, irritating, and potentially confusing. They can be caused by several issues, like chronic eye disease, a reaction to an allergen, or even a sign that your contacts aren’t being cleaned correctly. One of the most common symptoms of dry eyes is blurry vision. 

If you’re dealing with the common symptoms of dry eyes–itching, burning, redness, and blurry vision–but can’t find relief from over-the-counter eye drops, it is time to consult an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam

At Downtown Eye Care & The Contact Lens Department, we are breaking down dry eyes, its common symptoms and causes, the link to blurry vision, and what you can do about it. 

What Are Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes, medically known as dry eye syndrome, occur when your eyes cannot maintain proper lubrication and moisture levels, leading to discomfort and visual disturbance. It is a common condition and can affect 30% of Canadians. 

Symptoms of Dry Eyes

Oftentimes, the symptoms of dry eye appear congruiently and impact each other. 

  • Itching: Persistent itching or a gritty sensation in the eyes.
  • Burning: Feeling of burning or stinging in the eyes.
  • Redness: Eyes may appear red or bloodshot due to irritation.
  • Sensitivity to Light: Increased reactivity to light, known as photophobia
  • Temporary blurred vision: Difficulty focusing, blurred and unfocused eyesight. 
  • Stringy Mucus: Excessive production of stringy mucus in the eyes. 
  • Eye Fatigue: Constant eye fatigue, especially after extended screen time or reading.
  • Difficulty Wearing Contact Lenses: Dryness and irritation can make it difficult to wear contact lenses comfortably.

Causes of Dry Eyes

There are a variety of factors that can influence the likelihood and severity of dry eye syndrome. 

  • Environmental Factors: Dry eyes can be caused by exposure to dry or windy climates, smoke, air conditioning, or prolonged screen time.
  • Aging: As we age, tear production decreases, leading to a higher incidence of dry eyes among older individuals.
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions like autoimmune diseases, diabetes, hormonal changes, and eyelid problems can impact tear production and cause dry eyes.

What Is the Link Between Dry Eye & Blurry Vision? 

Blurry vision refers to a lack of sharpness or clarity in your eyesight, making objects appear out of focus or hazy. It can significantly impact daily activities that require clear vision, such as reading, driving, or using digital screens. If you squint a lot to see clearly , you are probably experiencing blurry vision. 

Dry eyes can contribute to blurry vision by disrupting the typical tear film that covers the eye’s surface. Inadequate tear production or poor tear quality can result in irregularities on the corneal surface, leading to light being scattered rather than appropriately focused onto the retina, causing blurred vision. Often dry eyes will create intermittent blur, where your vision will fluctuate and you can find yourself blinking a lot to see clearly.

  • Inadequate Tear Production: When the eyes lack sufficient tears to maintain proper lubrication and hydration, the cornea can become dry and irregular, affecting the quality of vision.
  • Poor Tear Quality: If the composition of tears is imbalanced, it can impact the smoothness of the tear film, leading to distorted or blurred vision due to uneven light refraction.  The lack of the oily component in your tears is the most common cause for a poor tear film quality. 

Common Causes of Blurry Vision:

As a lone symptom, blurry vision can be caused by various factors, including indicating an underlying health issue. 

  • Refractive Errors: Conditions like nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism, or presbyopia can cause blurry vision.
  • Eye Strain: Prolonged focusing on close-up tasks, inadequate lighting, or excessive screen time can lead to eye strain and temporary blurry vision.
  • Underlying Health Issues: Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, chronic allergies, high blood pressure, cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration can result in blurry vision as a symptom.

What Can I Do About It?

A woman applying artificial tears on her right eye.

If dry eyes and blurry vision are negatively affecting your daily life, we recommend a few things you can do. 

  1. Artificial Tears: Lubricating eye drops, known as artificial tears, can help replenish moisture and relieve dry eye symptoms. The main component we recommend in artificial tears is hyaluronan, which helps to supplement the oily component in your tear film. This component also has inflammatory properties that have proven to be very beneficial. Newer bottle designs are available to offer preservative-free solutions that allow for frequent application without irritation.
  2. Lifestyle Changes: Stay hydrated and maintain good overall hydration to support tear production. Take regular breaks during screen time to reduce eye strain and dryness. Use a humidifier in dry environments to increase moisture levels.
  3. Prescription Medications: In severe cases, prescription eye drops like cyclosporine may be recommended to manage inflammation and improve tear production. Oral medications or punctal plugs that help retain tears may be prescribed by your eye care professional.
  4. Consultation with an Eye Care Professional: It is crucial to consult an eye care professional for a comprehensive evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

The Importance of Proactive Eye Care & Regular Eye Exams

Understanding the relationship between dry eyes and blurry vision indicates the importance of proactive eye care. Addressing dry eyes through treatments like artificial tears, lifestyle adjustments, and prescription medications can alleviate the discomfort of blurry vision and improve your dry eyes by restoring the tear film’s integrity. 

Regular eye exams play a vital role in maintaining good eye health by detecting early signs of dry eyes, refractive errors, or underlying conditions that could impact vision. Stay proactive, stay informed, and prioritize your eye health. Book an appointment with us at Downtown Eye Care & The Lens Department today!

Dr. Neil Haney, Optometrist and Owner of Downtown Eye Care

Written by Dr. Neil Haney

Dr. Neil Haney spent his early years in Le Pas and Morden, Manitoba before attending high school in Winnipeg. He received his degrees in Biochemistry and Honours Biology from the University of Winnipeg in 2001. Dr. Haney then studied and worked at CancerCare Manitoba and the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology, where his research included the study of genetic malformations of the eye during early development.

Dr. Haney received his Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Waterloo in 2008. He completed his ocular therapeutics externship at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, and gained clinical experience working at full-scope private practices in Calgary and Victoria prior to graduation.

He loves to travel and spent a year teaching English in Hiroshima, Japan. Dr. Haney plays recreational soccer throughout the year, so if you run into him at a Footy-Sevens game, be sure to say hi!

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