Can Stress and Anxiety Worsen Dry Eye Symptoms?

Can Stress and Anxiety Worsen Dry Eye Symptoms?

Can Stress and Anxiety Worsen Dry Eye Symptoms?

Can Stress and Anxiety Worsen Dry Eye Symptoms?

Can Stress and Anxiety Worsen Dry Eye Symptoms?

August 15, 2023

Stress is the body’s response to any change that requires an adjustment or reaction. It can be physical, mental, or emotional and can be triggered by both good and bad experiences. On the other hand, anxiety is a feeling of fear, apprehension, and worry. It is a natural response to stress, and in small doses, can be beneficial, helping us stay alert and focused. However, when these feelings become chronic, they can lead to various health problems, including dry eyes. Studies have shown that up to 70% of Americans feel anxiety or stress daily! 

Dry eye syndrome, also known as dry eye disease or simply dry eyes, is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren't able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. This can result in a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation, sensitivity to light, redness, and a sensation of having something in your eyes. While it may seem unrelated, several studies have suggested a potential link between stress, anxiety, and dry eye symptoms.


Can Anxiety Cause Dry Eyes: Exploring the Connection

The link between emotional health and physical health is well-established, and eye health is no exception. Studies have shown that mental health disorders, including anxiety, can have a significant impact on eye health, leading to conditions like dry eyes.

One possible explanation for this connection is that anxiety can cause changes in the body that affect the tear film, which is the thin layer of tears that covers the surface of the eyes. Anxiety can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, which in turn can disrupt the tear film, leading to dry eyes.

Another theory suggests that individuals with anxiety may blink less frequently, which can cause the eyes to dry out. Additionally, some medications used to treat anxiety can also cause dry eyes as a side effect. It's clear that anxiety can indeed contribute to dry eye symptoms, making it a critical factor to consider in the management of this condition.


Can Stress Cause Dry Eyes: A Detailed Analysis

Stress, like anxiety, is another emotional state that can negatively impact eye health. When we're stressed, our bodies enter a state of 'fight or flight,' releasing a flood of stress hormones like cortisol. These hormones can cause inflammation throughout the body, potentially affecting tear production and leading to dry eyes.

Chronic stress can also lead to sleep disturbances, which can further exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Lack of sleep can cause the tear film to evaporate more quickly, leading to dry, uncomfortable eyes. It's also worth noting that some stress management medications can cause dry eyes as a side effect.


Managing Stress and Anxiety to Alleviate Dry Eye Symptoms

If you're struggling with stress, anxiety, and dry eye symptoms, it's important to know that there are steps you can take to manage these issues. Management techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help reduce stress levels and may improve dry eye symptoms. Similarly, seeking help for anxiety through therapy or medication can also be beneficial.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep, can also help manage stress levels and improve overall eye health. It's also important to have regular eye exams, especially if you're experiencing dry eye symptoms.

Remember, it's always important to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and treatment.



The question "Can anxiety cause dry eyes?" can be answered affirmatively. The same goes for stress. Both these emotional states can lead to physiological changes that disrupt the tear film, leading to dry eye symptoms.

While stress and anxiety are part of life, they don't have to take a toll on your eye health. By managing these emotional states and seeking appropriate treatment, it's possible to alleviate dry eye symptoms and improve your quality of life.

For more information on how stress and anxiety worsen dry eye symptoms, contact East Main Vision Clinic in Puyallup, Washington at (253) 780-0700 to schedule an appointment today.

East Main Vision Clinic