Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can sleep deprivation cause dry eyes?"
I deal with insomnia on and off, and I notice that my eyes dry out during these times. Is there a connection?
This is an important issue to discuss with your ophthalmologist. Dry eyes are caused by decreased or inadequate tears. Tears help protect the surface of your eyes, as well as protecting your eyes from infection. Dry eyes can be caused by a wide variety of problems and situations. Some people have intrinsic problems with their eyes or tear ducts that cause dry eyes. Tears contain oil, water, and mucous as their basic ingredients. Some people suffer from conditions where the there is an imbalance in the components of their tears, resulting in dry irritated eyes. Other patients do not produce enough tears. This situation can occur more commonly in people over the age of 50, older women, people with certain autoimmune diseases, people who take certain medications (such as antihistamines, blood pressure medication, certain antidepressants and acne medications, and others), and people who have had previous eye injuries or surgery. Occasionally problems with the eyelid and tear ducts cause eye dryness. Finally there are situational factors that are known to cause eye dryness. These include exposure to dry air, wind, and irritating activities where people reduce the frequency of blinking such as driving, reading, watching TV, or working on a computer. Sleeping hours are an important time for your eyes to renew, clean, and moisturize themselves. If you experience insomnia, this can certainly lead to or exacerbate dry eyes. I would recommend you see a primary care physician, who can help treat your insomnia. The best way to treat situational dry eyes is to eliminate, if possible, the situation causing the problem. You should also visit an ophthalmologist who can examine your eyes to make sure there aren't any problems with your eyes or tear ducts that are contributing to your dry eyes. An ophthalmologist may also be able to offer specialized prescription eye drops that will help treat your dry eyes. In the meantime, you may get some relief from over the counter artificial tears eye drops. These can be used frequently during the day and before bed to increase the moisture in your eyes and help them to retain moisture overnight. Make sure to avoid drops that decrease redness, as chemicals in these drops frequently cause additional eye irritation.
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