Living With Chronic Dry Eye

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Living with chronic dry eye is much more than having irritated eyes. Chronic dry eye is a complex condition. It is caused by many different things and can affect every aspect of your life.

It may take time for you and your doctor to find the right treatment for your chronic dry eye. You may also need to make some lifestyle adjustments to improve your symptoms. However, it is possible to manage your condition while still enjoying life.

Impact of dry eyes on daily living

If you have dry eye, simple activities you perform on a daily basis can be affected. Reading, watching TV, and driving are just a few of your activities or behaviors that can be impacted by dry eye.

What do these activities have in common? It all comes down to your blinking.

Any activity that makes you concentrate on a screen, a book, or even a road can make your eyes work harder than usual. When your eyes work harder, the number of times your eyes blink decreases. When you blink less, the tears coating the surface of your eyes are refreshed less often.1,2

Managing your symptoms at work

Working all day and managing your dry eye symptoms may be hard at times. If you have a job where you have to be in front of a computer all day, your dry eye symptoms could feel worse. In fact, researchers have found that some jobs may increase your risk of developing dry eye syndrome. If you spend most of your work day in front of the computer, you are at a greater risk for developing dry eye than those who perform their job outdoors.3

This does not mean you need to change your job. Small changes to your work environment may do wonders for your dry eye symptoms. These may include taking more screen breaks, changing the monitor settings on your computer, and wearing blue-light blocking glasses.4

Face and makeup products

When you have dry eyes, simple tasks like choosing your face and makeup products may get complicated. Some chemicals found in cleansing and beauty products can disrupt certain hormones inside your body, leading to dry eye symptoms. Other chemicals may irritate the surface of the eye.5

It may be best to stick to hypoallergenic (less likely to cause allergic reaction) products. Also, be sure to remove face and makeup products at night to avoid eye irritation during the hours you are sleeping.5


Lifestyle choices may cause or worsen your dry eye symptoms. Researchers have looked at how alcohol may lead to chronic dry eye. Studies have shown that those who choose to drink alcohol have an increased risk for developing dry eye. Drinking alcohol causes changes to both your eyes and the tears, including:6,7

  • Decreased tear breakup time
  • Abnormalities in the makeup of tears
  • Formation of cataracts with heavy drinking. A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye, which is usually clear at birth. The lens helps to focus light onto the retina, located at the back of your eye. Cataracts develop slowly over time and usually do not cause noticeable vision changes until age 60 or older.


You may be wondering if your morning cup of coffee is causing or worsening your dry eye symptoms. Doctors have thought that caffeine may worsen your dry eye because it can make you urinate more, which causes you to lose more fluid from your body. However, recent studies have shown that caffeine may not worsen dry eye and may help keep your eyes moist. More studies are needed to see if the amount of caffeine consumed matters when it comes to dry eye disease.8

Financial impact

Managing your dry eye symptoms go far beyond the symptoms of the disease. Data shows that the average cost of managing dry eye disease is more than $11,000 per person, or more than $55 billion to the U.S. economy as a whole.9

Direct costs may include:9

  • Buying eye care products, including rewetting drops
  • Prescription drug costs not covered by insurance
  • Costs to visit the doctor or for procedures
  • Buying nutritional supplements

Indirect costs include:9

  • Job productivity losses from not going to work or not being able to fully perform your job

Living with dry eye is much more than dealing with irritated eyes. Everything from reading to your pocketbook may be impacted. If you have chronic dry eye, talk to your doctor about the best ways to manage the symptoms. You can work and enjoy your daily activities when you get the treatment you need.

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