Dry eye in one eye can be caused by a blockage that prevents tear production, a recent surgery, or an underlying health condition.

The occasional irritated dry eye can happen for a variety of reasons, including allergies, eye infections, poor air quality, or even the common cold or flu.

However, for some people, the irritation that comes along with eye dryness isn’t temporary — and it may just occur in one eye. Understanding what causes dry eye and how you can remedy it, either through at-home or prescription options, can help you find relief.

While less common, yes, you can experience dry eye in just one eye. The symptoms and causes are often the same as experiencing dry eye in both eyes.

Dry eye in one eye symptoms

Experiencing dry eye symptoms in one eye can be irritating. The specific symptoms you experience will depend on the underlying cause of your dry eye. However, your symptoms will likely include:

  • itching
  • eyes that feel gritty
  • pain, burning, or redness in the eyes
  • blurred vision
  • difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • eye fatigue
  • stinging

Three common types of dry eye are:

EDE is the most frequently diagnosed type of dry eye and is caused by poor natural tear quality.

Some people have ADDE as a result of Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that directly affects lubricating glands in the mouth and eyes. As a result, people with this form of ADDE also usually experience dry mouth.

Alternatively, many people experiencing dry eye in just one eye will be diagnosed with a physical blockage that prevents the eye from producing enough natural tears to properly lubricate the surface.

This could be caused by either a non-Sjögren’s syndrome form of ADDE or EDE. Both conditions can be caused by either a physical blockage in the meibomian glands (oil glands of the eye) or damage to the gland that produces tears.

It’s also important to note that sometimes, even if you think only one eye is affected, both eyes may be. This may happen when symptoms are more noticeable in one eye, yet dry eye is also present in the other eye.

Likewise, other factors, such as having previously undergone corrective vision surgeries like LASIK or cataract surgery, can also contribute to developing dry eye.

The first step in treating dry eye in one eye is to understand the underlying cause. For temporary dry eyes caused by environmental factors like allergies or an eye infection, consider trying over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears.

Likewise, irrigating your eyes and avoiding rubbing them can help minimize dry eye symptoms. You may also want to try placing a warm, wet washcloth over your eyelids or massaging your eyelids with baby shampoo.

When should you see a doctor for dry eye?

Consider seeing a doctor if your symptoms are severe and persist. Likewise, if OTC remedies aren’t producing measurable results, become less effective, or symptoms worsen, be sure to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Additionally, if you’ve recently had an eye injury and then experienced dry eye, seeing a doctor for a formal diagnosis is important.

In some cases, you might need prescription-strength eye drops. If you have dry eyes caused by a physical blockage or damage, surgery may be needed to remove the blockage or make corrections to make sure your eyes are properly lubricated.

If persistent dry eye symptoms are preventing you from doing activities you enjoy and causing emotional distress, consider speaking with a therapist, in addition to seeking treatment for the physical symptoms of dry eye.

Depending on the underlying causes of your dry eye, you may be able to reduce your symptoms by modifying everyday behaviors. For example, reducing screen time and taking breaks to prioritize blinking can help reduce eye strain and associated dry eye.

Minimizing exposure to airborne pollutants like dust and dirt can also be helpful. Consider incorporating a high quality air purifier in your home to help improve indoor air quality. Additionally, using a humidifier can increase moisture in the air.

If you’re experiencing occasional dryness, consider using OTC artificial tears to help lubricate your eyes and ease symptoms. Note that if you’re using artificial tears frequently throughout the day, opt for a preservative-free version that can be used more often.

Most importantly, if your dry eye symptoms persist, schedule an appointment to have your eyes checked and determine the underlying cause of your dry eye.

Dry eye can be an irritating condition — regardless of whether it affects one or both eyes. However, taking a proactive approach to identify and address the underlying cause is important for alleviating symptoms.

If at-home or OTC remedies haven’t curbed your dry eye, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.