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Can Dry Eyes Cause Blindness?

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Young man rubbing his eyes out of discomfort.

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition that many people experience at some point. It’s caused by a problem with your tears–either you don’t produce enough tears or the ones you do produce are of poor quality. This results in your eyes not getting enough lubrication, leading to discomfort and sometimes, blurry vision.

Can dry eye syndrome lead to blindness? The answer is not as straightforward as you might hope. While it’s highly unlikely that dry eyes will cause total blindness, severe cases left untreated can indeed cause significant vision loss.

Some of the eye conditions triggered by chronic dry eye include infections, corneal abrasions, and even blindness. 

At the first sign of dry eye symptoms, contact an eye care specialist for an eye exam and to start a dry eye therapy treatment plan. This way, you can decrease your risk of serious eye damage or vision loss related to dry eye syndrome.

How Severe Dry Eye Can Lead To Vision Problems

While dry eyes generally don’t cause blindness, they can lead to complications affecting vision in severe cases. The key word here is ‘severe.’ Most people with dry eyes experience mild to moderate symptoms that, while annoying, don’t pose a serious threat to their vision.

However, in rare occasions, when dry eye syndrome becomes severe and isn’t treated properly, it can cause damage to the cornea. The cornea is the clear, front surface of your eye. It helps focus light that comes into your eye so you can see clearly.

When the cornea doesn’t receive enough lubrication from tears, it can become damaged. This can lead to blurry vision and, in extreme cases, vision loss.

Dry Eye Resulting from Underlying Conditions 

Severe cases of dry eyes resulting from autoimmune disorders such as Lupus or Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) can cause permanent damage to the cornea, affecting the clarity of their vision. 

Additionally, the prolonged irritation may give rise to scarring, which may lead to partial or even total vision loss.

Dry Eye Resulting from Medications & Treatments

Medications can also result in dry eyes and potential reduced vision. For instance, some drugs used to treat Parkinson’s, hypertension, allergies, and depression can deplete the body of tears, leading to dryness and potential corneal disfigurement. 

Overuse of contact lenses or LASIK surgery, especially when the patient has a pre-existing dry eye condition, can cause further dryness, infections, and potential vision impairment.

Understanding The Symptoms of Dry Eye

Dry eyes can be pretty uncomfortable. Common symptoms include a stinging, burning or a scratchy sensation in your eyes. You might also experience stringy mucus in or around your eyes, sensitivity to light, redness, and a sensation of having something in your eyes.

Some people with dry eyes also experience blurred vision or eye fatigue. It’s important to remember that symptoms can vary from person to person, and if you’re experiencing any discomfort or changes in your vision, it’s always best to consult an eye care professional.

Treating Dry Eye

The good news is that dry eye is often manageable, with a range of treatment options available. These can include simple changes like avoiding wind and dry air, using a humidifier indoors, and taking breaks during long tasks that require visual concentration.

Over-the-counter oil-based eye drops or ointments can help, as can prescription medications designed to reduce inflammation. In some cases, special contact lenses or minor surgical procedures may be recommended.

BlephEx Treatment 

BlephEx is a safe and effective treatment for dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis, and other eyelid hygiene issues.

This handheld instrument has a spinning medical-grade sponge that is used around the edge of your eyelids to eliminate bacteria that causes eye inflammation. Some people need this treatment every 4-6 months to promote healthy tear production.

Eyelid Cleansers

Eyelid cleansers can aid in the maintenance of clean eyelids and clear meibomian glands. They aid with the removal of oil, debris, pollen, and other impurities from the eyelid area. 

Bettner Vision provides a selection of pre-moistened cleaning pads and cleaners.

Meibomian Gland Expression

During your eye exam, Bettner Vision will do tests to see if your meibomian glands are functioning properly. These glands can become clogged, reducing the amount of oil produced for your tears. If we find the clogged glands, we’ll massage them so they can open and discharge oil as intended. 

The number of expressions required varies depending on the individual. If there is a major obstruction, you may just need a single treatment, or you may require several. We can perform as many treatments as necessary until your glands function properly.

Supplements & Nutritional Changes

Omega-3 fatty acids can assist with managing dry eye syndrome by helping to reduce inflammation. You can find these in fish, but if you’re not a seafood fan, omega-3s are also available in supplement form.

Vitamins A, C, D, and E are also beneficial for dry eye management. Vitamin A specifically may increase tear production, which can help alleviate dry eye symptoms. You can find these vitamins in foods like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, as well as beans and nuts.

Male optometrist examines female patient with a slit lamp.

Takeaways on Dry Eye 

So, while the thought of dry eyes leading to blindness can be scary, remember that it’s very rare and usually only occurs in severe, untreated cases. 

The best way to prevent any serious complications from dry eye syndrome is to get regular eye exams and follow your eye doctor’s advice for managing your symptoms.With proper care and treatment, you can manage dry eye syndrome and maintain your eye health. Stay vigilant about your eye health and seek professional help from Bettner Vision if you notice any changes. Book your appointment today!

Written by Dr. Christopher Bettner, OD

Dr. Christopher Bettner has been serving the optometric needs of Colorado Springs since 1995. He is trained in ocular pathology with an emphasis in the treatment and management of ocular disease, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and pre- and post-operative care.

More Articles By Dr. Christopher Bettner, OD

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