Do you suffer from gritty eyes? Grittiness basically means your eyes feel scratchy or rough.

Many people describe gritty eyes as a sensation similar to having a particle of sand in the eye. The discomfort can be mild or severe.

You may also experience other symptoms like:

  • dryness
  • burning
  • watery eyes
  • redness
  • itching

There are many potential causes for gritty eyes and a number of solutions that can ease the irritation.

Read on to learn more about what could be to blame for the grittiness and how doctors treat this condition.

Eye conditions or other medical problems may be the culprit for your gritty eyes. Here are some possible causes along with other symptoms you may have in addition to the feeling of grittiness:

Possible causesOther symptoms (in addition to grittiness)
dry eye syndromeburning, stinging, or scratchiness
corneal abrasionpain
blepharitisswollen or red eyelids, sore or burning eyelids, crust on eyelashes
allergiesredness, swelling, itchiness, tearing, and burning
pinguecula and pterygiumredness, swelling, yellow spot or bump on the white of the eye, blurry vision
Sjögren syndromedry eyes, dry mouth
vitamin A deficiencydry, scratchiness
sunburned eyesdry and red
thyroid diseasered, watery eyes, double vision, bulging eyes, difficulty closing eyes
other medical conditions (diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma)dryness
environmental conditions dryness, tiredness
agingdryness, blurry vision
contact lensesdryness

Dry eye syndrome

Dry eye is a condition that happens when your tears don’t provide enough lubrication for your eyes.

Having dry eyes can cause symptoms like:

  • burning
  • stinging
  • scratchiness

If untreated, dry eye can lead to infections or damage to the surface of your eyes.

Corneal abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the surface of the cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of your eye. It’s often caused by contact with:

  • fingernails
  • makeup brushes
  • tree branches

If you have a corneal abrasion, it might feel like something is stuck in your eyes. Or, your eyes might feel sandy or gritty. A corneal abrasion can be quite painful.


Blepharitis is inflammation of your eyelids. The condition might cause eyelids to look swollen or red. They may also burn and feel gritty or sore.

Sometimes, blepharitis can cause crusts to develop around the base of the eyelashes.

It can be treated with warm compresses, antibiotics, and steroids.


Allergic conjunctivitis, or “eye allergies,” can happen when an allergen irritates your eyes. In response, your eyes produce a substance called histamine.

Pollen is a common allergen that can aggravate eyes.

Eye allergies can cause:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • itchiness
  • tearing
  • burning

Pinguecula and pterygium

Pinguecula and pterygium are growths that appear on your eye’s conjunctiva, the clear covering that sits on the white part of the eye.

A pinguecula is a lump of fat, protein, or calcium. It looks like a yellowish, raised lesion that usually appears on the side of the eye that’s near your nose.

Pterygium is a fleshy tissue growth that has blood vessels. It can stay small or sometimes grow big enough to cover part of your cornea.

These conditions can cause different symptoms, including gritty eyes.

Sjögren syndrome

Sjögren syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that can cause dry eyes and a dry mouth.

It mostly affects people over age 40, and women are more at risk than men.

Treatments may involve different types of eye drops, surgery, or other medications.

Vitamin A deficiency

Not getting enough vitamin A in your diet can affect the health of your eyes and cause symptoms of dry eye.

You can counteract the deficiency by eating foods that are high in vitamin A, like:

  • carrots
  • eggs
  • fish
  • spinach
  • broccoli

Sunburned eyes

If your eyes are overexposed to UV radiation, the cornea can develop a sunburn. This may cause a gritty sensation in your eyes.

Thyroid disease

Thyroid disease, a condition where your thyroid doesn’t function properly, can cause eye symptoms, such as:

  • red eyes
  • watery eyes
  • double vision
  • bulging eyes
  • difficulty closing eyes

Some people with thyroid disease also report experiencing gritty or scratchy eyes.


The medications you take can cause dry eyes and a gritty feeling. Some of these include:

  • antihistamines
  • antidepressants
  • decongestants
  • hormone replacement therapy
  • blood pressure drugs
  • birth control pills
  • medicines for acne
  • drugs for Parkinson’s disease
  • heartburn medicines

Other medical conditions

Other medical problems can trigger eye symptoms, such as gritty eyes. These include:

Environmental conditions

Exposure to certain environmental conditions, like smoke, wind, or a dry climate, can affect your tear evaporation and cause gritty eyes.

Additionally, staring at a computer screen for a long period of time can prompt this symptom.


Sometimes, dry or gritty eyes are just the effects of aging. Dry eye is more common in people over 50.

Laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery can cause symptoms of dry eyes, but they’re usually temporary.

Contact lenses

Contact lenses are a popular alternative to glasses. But long-term use of contacts can lead to symptoms of dry eye.

Be sure to follow the instructions on how to properly clean, store, and apply your contact lenses.

Treatment for gritty eyes will depend on what’s causing the unwelcome symptom. Addressing the underlying condition can often help improve the grittiness.

Medical options

Some medical options for treating gritty or dry eyes might include:

  • Eyedrops. Different types of eyedrops may be prescribed to lubricate your eyes, reduce inflammation, or increase tear production.
  • Eye inserts. Inserts work like artificial tears to relieve symptoms of dry eye. They look like a clear grain of rice and are placed between your lower eyelid and eyeball. The insert slowly dissolves and releases a substance that lubricates your eye.
  • Cholinergics. These drugs help increase tear production. They’re available as pills, gels, or eyedrops.
  • Special contact lenses. If you use contact lenses, your doctor may recommend a particular type that protects the surface of your eyes and traps moisture.
  • Tear duct closure. This treatment keeps your tears from leaving your eyes too quickly. Your doctor can seal your tear ducts with small silicone plugs. Or, your physician might plug your tear ducts with a procedure that uses heat.
  • Light therapy and eyelid massage. A procedure called intense pulsed light therapy along with eyelid massage may help relieve symptoms in some people with severe dry eyes.

Home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) solutions

Some OTC or home remedies for gritty, scratchy eyes include:

  • OTC eyedrops. You might want to try purchasing an OTC eyedrop. Some, like Alaway, Pataday, and Zaditor, contain antihistamines to treat allergic eyes. Others that work like artificial tears to lubricate the eyes include brands like Refresh, Systane, and Bion Tears. Using eyedrops that are preservative free can be more effective and less irritating.
  • Warm compresses. Applying a warm compress or eye mask daily can help clear up blocked oil glands.
  • Omega-3 supplements. Some doctors recommend adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet to help relieve dry eye symptoms. You can purchase these pills or tablets online.
  • Eyelid massage. Regularly massaging your eyelids may help reduce grittiness.
  • Humidifier. A humidifier can add moisture to the air and ease your symptoms.

You may help prevent gritty eyes by doing the following:

  • Don’t expose your eyes to blowing air. Avoid putting your face in front of hair dryers, air conditioners, or fans.
  • Give your eyes a break. Take periodic pauses when you’re at a computer or reading a book. During this time, close your eyes for a few minutes or blink repeatedly for a few seconds.
  • Position your computer screen correctly. If your computer screen is below your eye level, you won’t open your eyes as wide, which could help slow the evaporation of tears.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Safety shields or wraparound sunglasses may help block dry air and wind.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking or being around smoke can worsen dry eye symptoms.
  • Use artificial tears regularly. Keep your eyes lubricated with artificial tear drops.

If the grittiness and discomfort in your eyes lasts for more than a couple of days, you should see an eye doctor.

An optometrist or ophthalmologist can help you figure out what’s causing your symptoms. To help diagnose your condition, a doctor might perform a complete eye exam and run tests to measure the volume and quality of your tears.

Once your eye doctor knows what’s causing your gritty eyes, they can recommend appropriate treatment options.

Gritty eyes are an uncomfortable but common symptom of many medical conditions, medications, or environmental factors. The good news is, there are a lot of prescription and OTC remedies that can help.

If the grittiness becomes severe or doesn’t go away, an eye doctor can recommend an appropriate therapy.