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Can Dry Eyes Cause Headaches?

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A man sitting at a desk in an office with his laptop and holding his glasses in his right hand as he rubs his eyes

When you’re experiencing dry eyes and headaches at the same time, it raises the question: Are your headaches caused by dry eyes? Suppose you are among those people with chronic headaches. You’ve likely tried everything from over-the-counter medications to specialist tests to get a better understanding of your symptoms.

Dry eyes and headaches can share some common symptoms, but research has yet to prove definitively that there’s a link between the two. While both conditions are irritating, experiencing the combination can result from something else or be a coincidence.

If you’re developing chronic dry eyes and headaches, your optometrist can help diagnose and treat your dry eye while providing insight and guidance on addressing your headaches.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eye syndrome is characterized by insufficient and poor-quality tears to lubricate the eyes. The symptoms can include:

  • Stinging, burning, and gritty sensation
  • Excess tears
  • Blurred vision
  • Inflammation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Discomfort wearing contact lenses
  • Eye strain
  • Tired eyes

Developing dry eye is common, and it can have many causes, such as:

  • Low humidity
  • Heat
  • Pollution and allergens
  • Excessive screen time
  • Age
  • Certain medications or medical conditions

When the eyes are not adequately lubricated, the nervous system may respond by interpreting the pain as a headache. Those with chronic dry eye syndrome can experience pain around the eyes, forehead, or temples. The correlation between dry eyes and headaches is still being explored and studied for more conclusive links.

Eye-Related Headaches


One possible reason dry eyes and migraines may be linked is that the trigeminal nerve, responsible for facial sensation, has a branch that connects to the tear gland. When the tear gland does not function as it should, it can irritate the trigeminal nerve and result in headaches.

Tension Headaches

Another possible reason for the connection is that if you have dry eyes, you may be blinking more often than usual to keep your eyes moist. However, the constant eye flickering puts a strain on the muscles around the eyes, causing tension headaches.

These headaches are closely related to digital eye strain, which can be related to dry eye syndrome. Some of the most common shared symptoms include:

  • Sore eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light

Relieve Eye-Related Headaches

Adjusting your work and lifestyle habits can help ease the discomfort of eye pain and headaches. To prevent help headaches:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule
  • Blink often
  • Work in proper lighting
  • Practice good computer ergonomics
  • Avoid excessive contact lens wear
  • Wear the correct prescription
  • Use artificial tears

Dry Eye Treatments

At-home and in-office treatment methods are available to alleviate dry eyes, including artificial tears, inserts and punctal plugs, and meibomian gland dysfunction therapy.

Artificial Tears & Prescription Eye Drops

Over-the-counter eye drops can help soothe irritation from environmental irritants, screen exposure, and more to rehydrate eyes. Prescription eye drops can provide support for your eyes to produce tears more effectively.

Inserts & Punctal Plugs

For a longer-lasting solution, inserts and punctal plugs can be the answer. Inserts can release lubricants to slowly but continuously moisturize the eyes. Punctal plugs placed in your tear ducts can prevent the tears from draining too quickly, retaining lubrication on the eye’s surface.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Treatment

Your meibomian glands are responsible for producing the lipid layer of your tear film. Dysfunction in these glands—if they’re blocked or congested—can cause your tears to evaporate too quickly.

In-office treatments and therapies can help restore your meibomian glands to produce healthy, fresh oil for your tear mixture.

A male optometrist examining the eyes of a young woman using a medical device to detect potential eye problems.

Treatment for Dry Eyes in St. Catharines, ON

Living with dry eyes can be incredibly debilitating, but your optometrist can provide a personalized dry eye treatment plan.Apart from providing treatment for dry eyes, your optometrist can also help if you suffer from headaches resulting from eye strain. Don’t let dry eyes or eye strain keep you from living life to the fullest. Book an appointment online with EyeCare Niagara’s dedicated team.


Written by Dr. Douglas DenBak

Being born and raised in St. Catharines, Dr. DenBak takes great pride in caring for his community through his optometry practice. Dr. DenBak graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in 1998 and immediately returned to his hometown to begin honing his trade. Dr. DenBak is extremely passionate about his practice and spends his extra time refining it in terms of its operations and future.

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