Four eyes showing different symptoms.

My Most Common Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eyes are a fairly common condition, though one that isn’t talked about enough. At least not in my eyes (pun intented!)

Chronic dry eye typically occurs when you don’t produce enough tears, or your tears evaporate too quickly. This leaves your eyes not having enough moisture. And that can cause a plethora of symptoms. Below are some of the symptoms I personally struggle with most when it comes to my dry eyes.

Burning and stinging

By far, the most common symptom I experience due to my chronic dry eye is a burning and/or stinging sensation. For me, this typically tends to occur when I’m in more dry environments, or when I look at a screen for too long. It also tends to be more common for me as the day winds down. By then, my eyes are more tired, and the lubrication solution I use with my lenses evaporates.

The burning and stinging can also be accompanied by a scratchy or gritty sensation in my eyes as well. But unfortunately, that one also just occurs on its own sometimes as well.

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Lowered focus

One of the most prominent symptoms of chronic dry eye for me is the inability to focus for long periods of time. Whether I am reading, which is something I’ve always loved to do, writing, doing research, or just looking at a screen - whatever it may be. All of it tends to be difficult for me, especially when my chronic dry eyes are flaring up worse than usual. I tend to lose focus very quickly, making it harder to get anything done. I find myself looking away from the screen and blinking much more in order to avoid the discomfort.

Not producing tears

I didn’t know about this one until further into my chronic dry eye journey, funny enough. For some reason, I still forget it’s even a symptom sometimes, even though its essentially the very definition of dry eye. It just seems like such an odd thing to say "I can't produce tears, but I want to cry!"

Regardless, when I did find out about it, it made sense to me. I have struggled for many years to actually produce tears, even when I do feel the urge to cry. This makes for an awkward time for myself, to be completely honest. I end up feeling like I’m just making a ridiculous face (as most of us do when we cry), except without the tears. I guess, in retrospect, I can have some humor about it these days. But in the beginning, this was a weird and surprising symptom to me.

Sensitivity to light

I also deal with sensitivity to light, also known as photophobia, pretty much on a daily basis. I find that I typically have to turn down the brightness on all of my electronic devices when using them. In my case, the blue light from electronics tends to be worse than anything, and I have to take breaks often. But, it isn’t only limited to electronics, it also occurs from natural sunlight.

I used to not even want the curtains or blinds open much during the worst period of my eyes, before getting proper treatment. It caused me to get a headache and worsened my dry eye symptoms. In fact, I used to joke I must be a vampire or something.

Still to this day, while I have found better ways to manage it, I am extremely sensitive to it. Even if it isn’t extremely sunny outside, I still wear sunglasses whenever I go outside to minimize this symptom as much as I can.

While these aren’t all the symptoms of dry eye, and everyone is different, these are the most common ones I personally experience and struggle with. Thankfully, by finding a good eye doctor, getting the right scleral and daily lens, and the proper treatment, I have been able to reduce the symptoms and make my life easier.

We may not be able to stop symptoms from occurring. But by learning about our own bodies and our symptoms, and educating ourselves, we can at least learn to navigate the world of dry eyes, and provide ourselves as much comfort as we can.

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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