Whether you’re prone to allergies or your contacts bother you by the end of the day, everyone finds themselves rubbing their eyes from time to time. However, if you notice that you’re rubbing your eyes throughout the day due to a gritty feeling—akin to having sand in your eyes—you could be dealing with a potentially serious condition that merits a visit to your MD. Read on to discover what this feeling may mean for your ocular health, and for more symptoms you can’t afford to ignore, If You Feel This at Night, You Need to Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Say.
According to 2017 research published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, dry eye disease (DED) is estimated to effect 6.8 percent of U.S. adults, or approximately 16.4 million people. While the condition may be seriously uncomfortable for those affected, many of its symptoms can easily be mistaken for something less serious, like run-of-the-mill irritation or a foreign object, like an eyelash or dirt, in your eyes. However, if left untreated, dry eye disease can significantly impact your quality of life. The results of a 2021 study published in BMJ Open found significant prevalence of depression, anxiety, and reduced work performance among those with dry eye disease.
The good news? Treatment, including eye drops, antibiotics, tear-stimulating drugs, and eye inserts that lubricate your eyes can all help, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re worried you may have DED, read on to discover the condition’s most common symptoms. And in other health news, check out This Is When You Should Take Tylenol Instead of Advil, Doctors Say.
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While having red eyes can stem from a number of causes, it’s one of the most common symptoms of dry eye disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. In contrast to many of the other symptoms of the disease, redness is noticeable to others and may contribute to negative feelings about one’s self-image. In fact, according to a 2002 study published in Ophthalmology and Visual Science, individuals with dry eye disease reported that the condition negatively affected their self-esteem. And for more health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Stinging or burning sensations
Everything from exposure to chemicals to seasonal allergies can cause stinging or burning sensations in your eyes, but they’re also a hallmark of dry eye disease, the Mayo Clinic notes. However, this sensation may lead to serious damage over time if it leads to you rubbing your eyes—a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology found that eye rubbing can lead to keratoconus, which can change the shape of your eye and cause blurred vision and light sensitivity. And if you want to protect your health, know that If You Can’t Do This in 90 Seconds, Your Heart Is in Danger, Study Says.
Strangely enough, one of the symptoms most common in individuals with dry eye disease is eye watering. If you’re plagued by this or other unpleasant symptoms of dry eye disease, the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests that fatty acid supplements and use of a humidifier at home or work may help. And for the supplement to avoid, check out This Is the One Vitamin You Should Never Take, Doctors Say.
If being in brightly lit environments hurts your eyes, dry eye disease may be to blame. According to a 2016 study published in Expert Reviews in Ophthalmology, among a group of 236 veterans with mild to severe dry eye, 75 percent said they’d experienced sensitivity to light that caused them pain. Fortunately, wearing sunglasses can help reduce photosensitivity pain and may prevent wind or irritants from entering your eye and making the condition worse.
Blurry vision or eye fatigue
While many people experience blurry vision or eye strain from time to time, whether from declining vision or staring at a screen all day, they’re also common symptoms of dry eye disease. If you’re experiencing this symptom, the Mayo Clinic recommends taking regular breaks from tasks that require long periods of visual concentration and positioning your computer screen below eye level so you won’t have to expose as much of your eye to see it. And for more signs of ocular issues, check out 17 Warning Signs Your Eyes Are Trying to Tell You About Your Health.