Blog Hero

Can Dry Eyes Cause Headaches?

A young woman rubbing her irritated right eye with dry eyes.

If you’ve ever had dry eyes, you know how frustrating the symptoms can be. Your eyes may feel dry, irritated, or as if something is stuck in them. You may even start noticing that you have headaches and dry eyes at the same time.

Dry eyes and headaches are common conditions that affect many people, and it may seem like these 2 conditions are associated.

It’s possible that having dry eyes and migraines isn’t a coincidence. Although dry eyes don’t cause headaches or migraines, there may be a link between the 2 conditions. It’s best to make an appointment with your eye doctor to see what may be contributing to your dry eyes.

What Are Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes are a fairly common condition that can cause discomfort and, in severe cases, vision loss

Your tears reduce friction and keep your vision sharp. Tear instability can cause inflammation and damage to the eye’s surface. Your eyes may:

  • Sting
  • Burn
  • Have sensitivity to light
  • Have stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Feel like something is in your eyes
  • Have eye strain or blurred vision

Healthy tears are made up of 3 parts, all of which are required for a healthy tear film:

  • Water
  • Oil
  • Mucus

2 main types of dry eye disease can affect you either together or separately:

  • Aqueous Deficiency: When the lacrimal glands produce less of the watery layer of your tears, this is referred to as aqueous deficiency. Aqueous deficiency is responsible for one-tenth of all cases of dry eye disease.
  • Evaporative Dry Eye: Evaporative dry eye occurs when the meibomian glands get clogged, affecting the quality of the oil layer in the tears. Because of the lack of oil, tears evaporate too quickly to properly moisturize the eyes. Evaporative dry eye disease accounts for 85% of dry eye cases.

What’s the Link Between Headaches & Dry Eyes?

Although several studies on the relationship between headaches and dry eye disease have been published, researchers are still unsure of the exact link. The link may simply be in what triggers these issues.

Long periods spent in front of computers or other screens can cause dry eyes. Neck pain and exposure to light from long-term computer work are also common migraine headache triggers. 

Other possible associations between dry eyes and headaches include:

  • Cluster headaches
  • Sjörgen’s disease
  • Eye strain

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are severe headaches that usually affect only one side of the head. Some people report pain or a stabbing sensation in or near the eye. They may mistake this for dry eyes or believe that their dry eyes are the source of the pain.

Sjörgen’s Syndrome

Sjörgen’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue. It can cause problems with tear production, resulting in dry eyes. It can also cause joint pain, tension, and headaches.

A woman that is sitting in front of her computer for long hours is experiencing eye strain and headaches, she is massaging her temper in both hands while her eyes are closed.

Eye Strain

Eye strain can make your eyes feel dry and tired, and some might attribute this to dry eyes. Those who suffer from eye strain may also experience headaches and other types of muscle tension, such as neck pain, as a result of sitting in one position and staring at a computer for an extended period.

How to Treat Dry Eyes

A thorough eye exam at Eyes on Plainville can help us fully understand your eye health and any underlying causes of your dry eyes. To assess the quality and quantity of your tears, we may perform a slit lamp test or a Schirmer’s test.

Additionally, your eye doctor can perform the following treatments to alleviate the symptoms of dry eye disease:

  • BlephEx treatment
  • Punctal plugs
  • iLux
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy

Blephex Treatment

BlephEx is a painless procedure performed in-office that helps reduce or eliminate dry eye symptoms.

This treatment removes bacteria and toxins that live along the lash lines that cause inflammation and disease. With the BlephEx handpiece, we carefully spin the medical-grade disposable micro-sponge along the edge of your eyelids and lashes to gently exfoliate the area.

Punctal Plugs

Punctal plugs are tiny collagen or silicone plugs that are inserted into the tear ducts to prevent tears from draining. Punctal plugs can be either temporary or permanent.


The iLux is a handheld device that gently presses and heats the eyelids to open up blocked meibomian glands. This process promotes the natural release of oil from the glands, which is necessary for a high-quality tear film.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

IPL therapy combats meibomian gland dysfunction, reduces Demodex mites, fights inflammation, and improves abnormal blood vessels.

IPL treatment uses intense pulses of visible and infrared light that are applied to the eyelids. Each treatment lasts approximately 20 minutes, and multiple treatment sessions are usually scheduled about a month apart to achieve long-lasting results.If you’re looking for relief from your dry eye symptoms, book an appointment with our eye care team at Eyes on Plainville!

Dr. Sabrina Gaan

Written by Dr. Sabrina Gaan

Dr. Sabrina Gaan is the owner of Eyes on Plainville in Plainville, Massachusetts. She has a particular interest in myopia control and dry eye.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology from San Jose State University while earning her license as a dispensing optician. She decided to move to MA after her VA rotation in Jamaica Plain.

More Articles By Dr. Sabrina Gaan
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax