Blog Hero

Does Dry Eye Syndrome Cause Headaches?

Book Appointment
A woman sitting at her desk with her laptop open. She's rubbing her eyes underneath her glasses due to eye pain and headaches.

The human body is a complex interplay of systems and functions, where a disturbance in 1 area can reverberate and manifest symptoms in another. In the intricate dance of causes and effects, eye health plays a pivotal role that often goes unnoticed—until something goes wrong. 

One example of the link between eye health and overall health is the connection between dry eye syndrome (DES) and headaches. For some people, dry eyes and headaches do occur together, and they have several similar triggers and causes, including digital eye strain, but there is little evidence to show that dry eye directly causes headaches. 

If you frequently experience dry eyes, headaches, and other uncomfortable eye problems, it is important to speak with an optometrist to get to the root of the problem. An eye exam can be the first step toward getting relief. 

Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, also known as dry eye disease or just dry eye, is a common condition where your eyes do not produce enough tears or your tears evaporate too quickly. This condition can lead to inflammation and damage to the eye’s surface. 

Some of the common symptoms of dry eye include:

  • A burning sensation
  • A gritty feeling
  • Watery eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Discomfort from contact lenses

These symptoms can be a daily problem when you have dry eyes, but they can also be managed with treatments and advice from an eye doctor. 

The Connection Between Dry Eyes & Headaches

Now, could those gritty, uncomfortable sensations have anything to do with the throbbing pain in your temples? There is little evidence to show that dry eye disease will directly cause headaches, but they may occur together for a number of reasons. 

In some cases, the involuntary need to squint and strain the eyes because of dry eye symptoms can lead to tension headaches. Furthermore, both dry eyes and headaches can be caused by digital eye strain

Some studies have shown that people who experience migraine headaches can be more likely to experience dry eyes. Additionally, both dry eye syndrome and headaches can share similar triggers, such as dehydration, environmental factors, and certain medications. 

It’s important for individuals experiencing frequent headaches or symptoms of dry eye syndrome to speak with their healthcare provider or eye doctor for a proper diagnosis. We can help you manage the symptoms of dry eyes and identify other underlying causes of headaches and dry eyes that may require treatment. 

Tips for Managing Dry Eyes

To avoid discomfort from dry eyes and digital eye strain, consider the following tips:

  • Adjust your environment: Use a humidifier to keep air moist in workspaces and bedrooms, and avoid direct airflow from fans or AC units.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: When you’re using a computer or another device with a screen, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to avoid eye strain.
  • Eat healthy and stay hydrated: Eating a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent dry eye symptoms, and staying hydrated can support tear production.
A woman rubbing the corner of her eye as she's dealing with dry eye pain.

Tips for Dealing with Headaches

Here are a few tips for dealing with headaches:

  • Drink plenty of water to avoid headaches triggered by dehydration.
  • Explore relaxation methods like yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises to reduce headache intensity.
  • Try over-the-counter pain relievers recommended by your doctor. Remember that these medications might provide temporary headache relief, but they are not a cure for the underlying cause of headaches. 

When to See an Optometrist

If you experience persistent discomfort, significant changes in vision, and severe headaches alongside dry eyes, it’s time to see an optometrist. Even without these symptoms, regular eye exams are crucial for those with ongoing dry eye symptoms and other vision problems, as they’re vital for detecting and managing problems like dry eyes before they get worse.  

How an Optometrist Can Help with Dry Eyes

During your eye exam, your optometrist will assess various factors related to dry eyes, like tear quality, tear evaporation, and the overall health of your eyes, to find the right treatment for your eyes. 

Some of the options for managing dry eyes include:

  • Prescription eye drops: Designed to boost tear production and reduce inflammation.
  • Punctal plugs: Tiny devices inserted into tear ducts to prevent tear drainage.
  • Meibomian gland expression: A procedure to help clear clogged oil glands in your eyelids.
  • Nutritional supplements: You should only use omega-3 supplements and other nutritional supplements when they are recommended by your eye doctor. 
  • OptiLIGHT treatment: OptiLIGHT uses precise pulses of light to reduce the inflammation that is typically associated with dry eye disease, improve tear break-up time, and increase meibomian gland functionality. 

Get Started with Dry Eye Therapy

While dry eyes and digital eye strain are common and often seen as minor annoyances, their potential impact on your life is far from negligible. By adopting effective management strategies and being vigilant in seeking help when symptoms escalate, you can keep dry eyes, eye strain, and the potential associated headaches at bay.

Should you find yourself in pain and irritation, remember that your optometrist is ready to help give your eyes the care they deserve—a little attention can go a long way in supporting your quality of life.

At Littlefield Eye Associates, we are ready to help you find a solution that supports your daily comfort. Book an appointment today, and let’s talk about what might be best for you.

Littlefield Eye Associates logo

Written by Littlefield Eye Associates

At Littlefield Eye Associates, your vision and well-being come first. We are proud to offer comprehensive eye care to the Kansas City community that we have been serving since 1909. At our office, we strive to offer a comfortable environment for everyone who comes through our door.

We offer a variety of eye care services, including comprehensive eye exams for all ages, glasses and contact lenses, dry eye therapy, eye disease management and diagnosis, and more.

More Articles By Littlefield Eye Associates
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax