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Why is Some Chronic Dry Eye Worse in the Morning?

Chronic dry eye is a common problem, especially in older adults. Causes and symptoms vary, but some people with chronic dry eye find that their symptoms are worse in the morning.

Common symptoms include:1

These symptoms can be very uncomfortable and affect your well-being. There are things you can do to help reduce your symptoms and ease the severity of the dryness. Sticking to a routine each morning and before bedtime can ensure your eyes remain lubricated each day.

Why does it feel worse when I wake up in the morning?

There can be many reasons why dry eye can be worse in the morning when you first wake up. Reasons may include:2,3,4

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  • Abrasion from the pillow while sleeping, causing sensitivity
  • Eyelid inflammation (blepharitis), which can be caused by a bacterial infection on the eyelids or dry eyes, among other things
  • Eyes not fully closing while sleeping, preventing lubrication
  • Smoky environments
  • Dry climates or environments

What is chronic dry eye?

Chronic dry eye occurs when a person either does not make enough tears or their tears are of poor quality. Their tears may not cover the cornea enough, or they may evaporate too quickly. This leaves the eye dry.1

Chronic dry eye can be caused by many things, including:1

  • Older age
  • Certain medicines
  • Some medical conditions
  • Environmental factors
  • Long-term use of contact lenses
  • Certain eye surgeries like LASIK

If you notice you have dry eye symptoms, talk with your doctor about what you are experiencing. It might help to keep a log of when the dryness and symptoms seem to be worse, and what, if anything, helps with symptoms.

What can I do to help reduce symptoms?

If you have chronic dry eye, see your eye doctor. They can look at your eyes to see if there are any underlying causes, like an infection. Treatment and symptom reduction can depend on the cause of the dry eyes. Before trying any home remedies, ask your doctor if they are safe for you to try.

Things you can do to help reduce symptoms in the morning include:2,5

  • Use a viscous eye gel like Systane. Apply it to your eyes as directed right before you go to sleep.
  • Turn off fans at night. The airflow will worsen dryness if your eyes are open at night.
  • Sleep with a humidifier in your bedroom
  • If you wear contacts, take them out and wear glasses to rest your eyes
  • Keep your eyelids clean by washing them with warm, soapy water or baby shampoo in the mornings and at night
  • Limit your time in smoky or dry areas if possible

If you have blepharitis, there are treatments available that your doctor can do in-office.3

Do not stop taking any medicines, even if you suspect they might be causing your dry eyes. Wait until you talk with your doctor about your symptoms and the drugs you are taking. They can help provide you with guidance about your medicines and any alternatives that might be available.

Things to consider

Chronic dry eyes can be uncomfortable and even painful. Symptoms can be even worse in the morning. If you have chronic dry eyes, see your doctor to make sure there is no underlying cause for them.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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