If it seems like your dry eyes often come with a headache or a migraine, you may be on to something. Your surroundings and overall health can bring on both dry eyes and headaches in one instant. Here’s more about dry eyes and the possible headache connection.
What does it mean to have dry eyes?
Dry eyes can present in many different forms. You may feel the following sensations:
You may also experience:
- excess tears following dry periods
- eye discharge
- blurred vision
- heavy eyelids
- inability to cry
- uncomfortable contact lenses
- inability to stare at a computer screen or TV monitor
- tired eyes
Although these sensations are generally temporary, they may indicate something more serious. If these symptoms persist, you should make an appointment with your doctor.
Dry eyes and headaches
Dry eye symptoms appear to be more common among people with migraines. Migraines are headaches of varying intensity. They’re generally accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound.
Some evidence suggests dry eyes can cause a migraine to take on different qualities. For example, the migraine may last longer or involve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensory sensitivity.
It isn’t clear what causes the connection between dry eyes and migraines. One possible explanation is that both conditions may arise from inflammation. If you experience an injury or an illness, the affected areas often become inflamed in response.
If you’re prone to migraines, they may be triggered by a structural difference in your eye. In a 2015 study, researchers found that people who have migraines have a different ocular structure than people who don’t have migraines. The researchers also found that dry eye symptoms are prevalent in people with migraines.
More research is needed to assess the relationship between dry eyes and headaches. It isn’t yet clear whether dry eyes can cause headaches or if they’re only a symptom of headaches.
Both dry eyes and headaches can be caused by many different things. For example, certain prescription medications can cause both dry eyes and headaches. Both conditions are among the numerous side effects of isotretinoin. This is the active ingredient in a widely used acne medicine.
If you’re having both of these conditions, you should make an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause. One may be causing the other, or they could be the result of something else entirely.
What causes dry eyes?
Anything that disrupts your tear ducts can lead to dry eyes. A lack of moisture can make your eyes appear bloodshot and feel scratchy or uncomfortable.
Dry eyes can be caused by several environmental factors, including:
- low moisture in the air
- high temperatures
- pollutants, including natural pollutants such as pollen and other allergens
- excessive time in front of a computer screen
One medical condition that can cause dry eye is Sjögren’s syndrome. This syndrome is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system sees something within your body as foreign and tries to fight it. Dry mouth and dry eyes are common symptoms of this syndrome.
If you frequently experience dry eyes, you should make an appointment with your doctor. They can help determine the cause. If you often experience dry eyes alongside a headache, you should also consult your doctor. This may be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
What to expect at your appointment
When seeing your doctor about your dry eyes, they may ask the following:
- How often do you experience dryness or other irritation?
- When you experience this discomfort, does it affect your daily activities?
- Are you having any other physical symptoms?
If you’re also having headaches, you should mention this to your doctor. They can work with you to determine whether these occurrences are connected.
How to treat dry eyes
Depending on your symptoms, medical treatment of dry eye may start with specific suggestions for changes to your environment. This may include purchasing a humidifier for your home or getting rid of allergens. Your doctor may also recommend artificial tears.
For more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe artificial tears that don’t contain preservatives, unlike most over-the-counter (OTC) formulas. For example, cyclosporine (Restasis) is a prescription eye drop that decreases inflammation that can cause dry eyes. Topical steroids can provide relief, but aren’t suitable for long-term use.
Medicated contact lenses or glasses that block out irritants can also help treat dry eye. As a last resort, your doctor may also consider surgery to relieve your symptoms.
Dry eye and headache are common, but treatable, conditions. You may wish to experiment with home remedies or OTC options for each condition. If these conditions appear together or don’t resolve easily, see your doctor. Medical attention will help you receive an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment.
How to prevent dry eyes
If at all possible, try to avoid conditions that make dry eyes worse. This includes:
- areas with low humidity
- areas with air pollution
- bright sunlight
- excessive computer time
If that’s not possible, try using a compress on the eye area. Experiment with both a warm and cool towel, rung out and placed gently over the eyes. The area around your eyes is sensitive, so you should avoid extreme temperatures.
Artificial tears are a popular and effective short-term solution to dry eyes. Although they can provide quick relief, they can’t fix any underlying problems. If you need artificial tears frequently or over the long-term, you should consult with your doctor to rule out other conditions.