Although dry eyes and headaches are common triggers and can occur simultaneously, there is no research to establish a causal relationship between the two. However, if a trigger is causing both dry eyes and a headache, identifying and removing them can alleviate both.
Can dry eyes cause a headache? This is a common question people with headaches and dry eyes can ask.
Several studies have shown an association between dry eyes and headache, with an association that could run either way.
Dry eyes may be more common or a headache trigger in people with headaches. Headaches can also be a risk factor for dry eyes.
This article explores the symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention of dry eyes and headaches, the relationship between dry eyes and headaches, and the research behind that relationship.
Some symptoms of dry eyes are:
- Pain or burning sensation in the eye
- Pressure in the eye
- a feeling that something is stuck in the eye
- frequent blinking
- blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
People with a headache may find that the headache occurs before the eyes feel dry, around the same time the eyes feel dry, or after a period of dry eyes.
Headaches generally cause headaches, but can cause other symptoms, including eye and vision-related symptoms.
For example, migraine headaches can cause sensitivity to light or unusual visual sensations. Cluster headaches can also cause a stinging feeling behind one eye.
A number of studies have found a link between migraines and dry eyes.
For example, a 2017 study of 14,329 adults found that 14.4% of people who had migraines reported a diagnosis of dry eye, compared with 8.2% who had no migraines.
Additionally, 22% of participants in the study who had migraine headaches reported dry eye symptoms, compared with 15.1% who had no history of migraine headaches.
A 2019 population study of 72,969 participants found a similar association. In this study, people who had migraine headaches were 1.42 times more likely to be diagnosed with dry eye than those who didn’t.
However, researchers have not yet found a causal relationship between migraines and dry eyes. This means that it is unclear whether migraines cause dry eyes, whether dry eyes cause migraines, or whether some other factor explains the link.
People who experience migraine episodes can have a variety of triggers. For some, eye strain or dry eyes can be a trigger.
It is also possible that the two complaints have common triggers. Neck pain and exposure to light, for example, are common triggers for migraine headaches. Prolonged use of computers or other monitors can also cause dry eyes.
Some other possible links between dry eyes and headaches are:
- Cluster headache: Cluster headaches are severe headaches that usually affect one side of the head. Some people feel pain or a stinging sensation in or just behind the eye. You may mistake this for dry eyes or think that dry eyes are causing the pain.
- Sjörgen’s disease: Sjörgen is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks healthy tissue. It can cause tear production problems that lead to dry eyes. It can also cause joint pain and tension, as well as headaches.
- Eye strain: Eye strain can cause the eyes to feel dry or tired. Some people can attribute this to dry eyes. People with eye strain can also experience headaches and other types of muscle tension, such as neck pain, especially from sitting in one position and staring at a computer for long periods of time.
Dry eyes can occur for many reasons, including:
- taking certain medications such as antihistamines and antidepressants
- clogged meibomian glands, which are the sebum glands in the eyelids
- the use of certain eye drops, such as B. Glaucoma drops
- Irritation from the environment, e.g. For example, if a person lives in a very dry climate or if their eyes are strained by staring at a computer screen
- recent eye surgery
- the use of contact lenses
- Exposure to irritants such as perfume and smoke
- Nutritional deficiencies, particularly vitamin A deficiencies
Certain factors can increase your risk of dry eyes, including:
- to be older
- if you have a condition that causes inflammation in or around the eyes, such as: B. Blepharitis
- be female
Although some people experience dry eyes and headaches at the same time, there is no evidence that treating one cures or relieves the other.
If a single trigger is causing both, such as a person getting a headache after sitting at a desk all day staring at a screen, removing the trigger can help with both of these conditions.
Some treatment options for dry eyes include:
- Use of immunomodulators: Some people may find relief from over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops, but others may need prescription drops (immunomodulators) like Restasis or Cequa.
- Dealing with triggers and environmental factors: Using a humidifier while sleeping, minimizing exposure to allergens, and taking frequent breaks from screen time can help.
- Try therapy lenses: Certain types of contact lenses can help the eyes retain more moisture.
- Use of tear duct (punctiform) plugs: Clogging the tear ducts can help keep tears in your eyes longer.
- Is being operated: Various surgeries can help reduce dry eyes when other treatments don’t work. For example, a surgeon can permanently seal the lacrimal glands or place an amniotic fluid graft on the cornea to help with dryness.
Warm compresses and eyelid scrubs can relieve eye irritation from some eye conditions, such as blepharitis.
If home treatments don’t work, a doctor may recommend the following options:
- Treating underlying eye or skin problems
- prescription treatments for dry eyes
- Steroid treatments
- temporary stoppers in the tear ducts to lengthen the time the tears remain in the eyes
- surgical treatments such as tearing the tear ducts occlusion
- thermal pulsation
- intense pulsed light
Headaches can have many causes. Although most are benign, severe or chronic headaches can warn of a serious condition such as high blood pressure, a stroke, or a neurological disorder.
A doctor can recommend treatments to manage headaches and make sure a person does not have serious underlying medical conditions.
For the occasional headache, a person may want to try:
It may be possible to prevent headaches and dry eyes by keeping a journal of the triggers and then removing or avoiding those triggers.
For example, a person might find that dehydration and eye strain trigger both headaches and dry eyes.
To prevent headaches, a person can also try:
- Ask a doctor about headache prevention medication if you have chronic migraines or other severe headaches
- Exercise regularly, which can improve general headache symptoms and relieve tension headache pain
- Take frequent breaks from stretching when working in an awkward position or in front of the computer
- Developing strategies for coping with stress
To prevent dry eyes, a person can also try:
- Take frequent breaks from work and blink regularly when staring at a screen
- Use a humidifier to make the air less dry
- ask a doctor about a fatty acid supplement
- Drink plenty of water
- Minimizing the time in very dry environments
- do not allow air to blow into your eyes, e.g. B. by not sitting in front of a fan or heater
Most headaches go away on their own with or without treatment.
Migraine headaches usually last 4–72 hours. Some headaches, including migraines, can become chronic. When this happens, a person can experience many episodes each month, especially if they are unable to control or identify their triggers.
Dry eyes can come and go too, although they are made worse when a person is near dry eye triggers such as dry air.
The outlook for any complaint is better when a person can identify the underlying cause and correct it.
Dry eyes and headaches sometimes go hand in hand, and people with certain types of headaches are more likely to have dry eyes.
Even so, the researchers did not find a clear causal link between the two.
People who experience both symptoms should inform a doctor and ask about treatment options for each problem.