Chronic Dry Eye: Myths and Misconceptions
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board
Being diagnosed with chronic dry eye can bring about some uneasy feelings and questions about the disease. You may have already heard about chronic dry eye and have your own thoughts about how it happens, who it impacts, and its similarities to other conditions.
In our world of technology, information is available almost instantly. If you have a question about a condition, you can search online and find hundreds (sometimes thousands) of articles about it.
But how do you know what is true and what is not? What are the common myths about dry eye? Information is widely available about dry eye, but not all of it is supported by sound scientific evidence. Misinformation can be dangerous, cause anxiety, and could slow your diagnosis or treatment path.
Talk to your doctor
Your doctor is a great source of accurate and timely information about dry eye. Talking to your doctor keeps communication open and allows you to ask the questions you may have about the disease.
In addition to speaking with your doctor, knowing the common myths and misconceptions about chronic dry eye will help you understand the condition, how to talk to friends and family about it, and find accurate information about the latest treatments.
Myth: Chronic dry eye is the same as macular degeneration
Both chronic dry eye and macular degeneration are conditions of the eye. In fact, both conditions impact older adults more often than younger people. However, these conditions are not the same.
Unlike dry eye, which affects the surface of the eye, macular degeneration damages the back of the eye, called the retina. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. Macular degeneration occurs when the macular cells of the retina deteriorate. The retina is the tissue at the back of the eye responsible for sensing light and converting it into a signal the brain can recognize.1
Vision loss in macular degeneration usually occurs with blurred or dark areas in the center of the field of vision. Vision loss in macular degeneration is common and progresses over time. Vision loss may occur in chronic dry eye. However, it usually does not lead to central dark areas or blind spots, except in severe or complicated cases.1
Myth: “I have chronic dry eye too. I use store-bought dry eye drops.”
This can be frustrating to hear when you live with chronic dry eye. Many people do not know or understand that chronic dry eye is so much more than having occasional dryness symptoms of the eye.
You may find that others say they have chronic dry eye too, simply because they use over-the-counter moisturizing eye drops. While these eye drops may help those with occasional dryness of their eyes, this treatment alone may not be enough for those with chronic dry eye. Those with chronic dry eye require additional treatment and oversight from 1 or multiple doctors to manage their symptoms effectively. Occasional dryness of the eye is not the same thing as chronic dry eye disease.
Myth: It only affects older adults
The normal aging process puts older adults at an increased risk for developing chronic dry eye. Some research has shown that most adults over the age of 65 have experienced some type of dry eye symptoms.2
However, people can develop chronic dry eye at any age. Recent studies have shown that more people under age 50 are diagnosed with chronic dry eye than in the past. Increased use of computers, TV, e-readers, and other technology devices may be related to this change.3
Myth: It is only about dryness
Chronic dry eye is much more than dryness. Dry eye disease or chronic dry eye can have symptoms that cause serious discomfort and may include:4
- Stinging, burning, and redness of the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
- An itchy, gritty-like feeling of the eyes
- Stringy mucus around the eyes
- Tired eyes
- Trouble with night driving