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What Happens If You Don’t Treat Dry Eyes?

Category: LASIK

Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is a common eye condition characterized by a lack of moisture in the eyes. It can cause inflammation, irritation, and blurred vision, leading to complications such as corneal ulcers, scarring, and even vision loss if left untreated. It’s important to understand what can happen if your dry eye syndrome goes untreated so that you can take proper steps to prevent any serious problems from occurring.  


What Are the Effects of Not Treating Dry Eyes? 

Dry eyes left untreated can lead to symptoms such as blurry vision, pain, redness, burning sensation and light sensitivity. If left for long periods without treatment or relief from artificial tears, more serious conditions may arise such as corneal scarring from chronic inflammation or the development of a corneal ulcer (an open sore on the surface of the eye). These conditions can occur due to reduced lubrication on the surface of the eye which allows bacteria or viruses to penetrate into the deeper layers causing an infection. This in turn can lead to further vision loss. 


In severe cases, untreated dry eyes can cause blindness due to vision-threatening complications such as keratitis (inflammation) or corneal perforation (a hole in the cornea) if not treated immediately.


Dry Eye Complications 

Inability to Wear Contact Lenses

Your eyes need to produce good-quality tears, otherwise, your contact lenses can become overly dry and can feel gritty, and lead to irritation. Dry eyes can make it very difficult to take your contact out as it may stick to your eye.

Corneal Ulcers 

One of the most common complications of dry eye syndrome is corneal ulceration. This occurs when bacteria accumulate on the surface of the eye due to a lack of tears, allowing bacteria to enter through tiny scratches in the cornea. Without treatment, a corneal ulcer can cause scarring, infection, and even blindness. Corneal ulcers are often treated with antibiotics and artificial tears to keep the area moist and reduce further damage. 


Conjunctivitis (aka pink eye) is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. When small blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, they’re more visible. This is what causes the whites of your eyes to appear reddish or pink.



Another potential complication of dry eyes is corneal scarring. When your eyes do not produce enough moisture on their own, they become susceptible to scratches or abrasions that can lead to scarring on the surface of your eyes. Scarring can cause blurry vision and may require surgery or other treatments in order to restore normal vision. Additionally, it increases your risk for additional complications like glaucoma or cataracts later down the road, especially if long-term steroid eye drops are needed.


Vision Loss 

Finally, if left untreated for too long, dry eye syndrome can lead to permanent vision loss. This is because when your eyes don’t produce enough moisture they cannot properly lubricate themselves which leads to an increase in inflammation and irritation that causes blurred or distorted vision over time. If this happens it is important to seek medical attention immediately as there are treatments available that may help restore some of your lost vision – but only if it is caught early enough! 


Headaches and Dry Eye

There have been some studies that have shown that both dry eye and migraine appear together. Both dry eye and migraine are prevalent in the general population, and in recent years, studies have chronicled the comorbidity of the 2 conditions. Several investigations have linked depression and anxiety to dry eye; some individuals with the condition also exhibit sleep abnormalities. These comorbidities are also frequent among migraineurs. 1 There have been some studies that have shown that both dry eye and migraine appear together.


Treating Dry Eyes 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing complications associated with dry eyes. The first step is identifying what causes your dry eye symptoms so that you can avoid triggers that may worsen them. It is also important to make sure you get regular eye exams from an eye doctor in order to detect any changes early on before they become serious problems. You should also use artificial tears throughout the day when needed and consider supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and flaxseed oil which have been shown to help reduce inflammation associated with dry eyes. Finally, controlling environmental factors like humidity levels in your home or office may help improve your overall comfort level if you suffer from dry eye symptoms. 


Dry Eyes and LASIK


If you have dry eye, you might think this means you can’t get LASIK, but that’s not totally true. Your doctor can recommend a treatment plan to help alleviate the dry eye and to see if you are a candidate for LASIK.  Your treatment might include using artificial tears, eye drops, or having procedures done at the doctor’s office. Once your dry eye is under control, you may be a candidate for LASIK. The most common cause of dry eye syndrome that we see is contact lens overwear. 


Be sure to talk to one of our doctors about not only the benefits of LASIK, but also any risks of LASIK that may pertain to your individual needs and circumstances.


  1. Reference: Baksh BS, Garcia JC, Galor A. Exploring the link between dry eye and migraine: from eye to brain. Eye Brain. Published online March 4, 2021. doi:10.2147/EB.S234073
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