Is There a Link Between Dry Eyes and Dehdryation?

Dehydration can impact your entire body, including your eyes. When there’s a lack of moisture in the body, you may be more susceptible to dry eyes, which can cause discomfort and irritation, and it may even impact your vision.

Read more about the link between dry eye and dehydration, as well as ways to prevent and treat the condition.

Woman putting eye drops in

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How Dehydration Can Affect Your Eyes

Moisture and water are important aspects of the tear film layer that protects the eyes.

The tear film is a unique layer of fluid and mucus that covers your eyeball. There are three layers of tear film, including the oily layer, watery layer, and mucus layer. The middle portion of the tear film is made up primarily of water.

When you become dehydrated, the watery layer can become too thin and affects the tear film. Dehydration also decreases tear production.

Symptoms of Dry Eyes and Dehydration

Common symptoms of dry eyes from dehydration include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eye floaters
  • Headaches
  • Strained vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Problems wearing contacts
  • Scratchy sensation in your eyes
  • Burning, stinging, or irritation


You may be able to notice if your dry eye symptoms are caused by dehydration. Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dark yellow or strong-smelling urine
  • Light-headedness and dizziness
  • Dry mouth or lips
  • Peeing less frequently
  • Fatigue

Still, if you’re experiencing new symptoms, it’s helpful to talk with your healthcare provider in case it’s caused by another condition. Your healthcare provider may use several tests and procedures to diagnose dry eyes, including:

  • Eye exam: Your healthcare provider will review your medical history and examine your eyes.
  • Schirmer test: A blotting strip is placed under your lower eyelid. After five minutes your healthcare provider measures the amount of tears produced. This test measures tear production and volume.
  • Tear quality tests: This test uses special eyedrops with dye to assess the condition of your eye and looks for how long it takes for tears to evaporate.
  • Tear osmolarity tests: This test measures the number of particles and water in tears.
  • Tear samples: This test assesses tear samples to look for causes of dry eye disease.

Management and Prevention

The best strategy for preventing dry eye disease caused by dehydration is drinking plenty of water throughout the day. It’s recommended to drink between 2 and 3 liters of fluid each day.

Your diet also plays a role in dry eye symptoms. Some research suggests omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, like vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin D, and vitamin E, may help with eye health.

Over-the-counter treatments are available to help manage symptoms, like topical drops and gels.

When to Seek Professional Treatment for Dry Eyes

If your symptoms become chronic or you have vision problems, talk with a healthcare provider. In some cases, you may need prescription-strength medication to relieve dry eye symptoms. A physician can also help you create a plan to manage dry eye symptoms long term.


Dehydration impacts the whole body, including your eyes. If you are susceptible to dry eyes, it's especially important to stay hydrated to prevent the onset of frustrating symptoms such as itching and burning.

A Word From Verywell

If you develop new dry eye symptoms, it helps to discuss these symptoms with your healthcare provider. Dry eyes aren’t only uncomfortable, they can lead to complications, too. Your healthcare provider can help you create a plan to manage your symptoms long term.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you hydrate a dry eye?

    You can help hydrate dry eyes with eye drops, drinking water throughout the day, good nutrition, blinking frequently, avoiding allergens, and avoiding windy places or strong airflow.

  • What happens if you develop a chronic dry eye from dehydration?

    If you develop dry eye from dehydration, you’ll want to focus on drinking enough water and hydrating your dry eyes.

  • Will dry eyes lead to blindness?

    It’s unlikely that dry eyes will lead to blindness, especially in developed countries like the United States. Although dry eye symptoms can cause scarring or visual impairment, and can lead to vision changes, if left untreated.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sherwin JC, Kokavec J, Thornton SN. Hydration, fluid regulation and the eye: in health and disease. Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2015;43(8):749-764. doi: 10.1111/ceo.12546

  2. Walsh NP, Fortes MB, Raymond-Barker P, et al. Is whole-body hydration an important consideration in dry eye?Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012;53(10):6622-6627. doi:10.1167/iovs.12-10175

  3. Messmer EM. The pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of dry eye disease. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2015;112(5):71-82. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2015.0071

  4. National Health Service. Dehydration.

  5. How is dry eye syndrome diagnosed?

  6. McCusker MM, Durrani K, Payette MJ, Suchecki J. An eye on nutrition: The role of vitamins, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants in age-related macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome, and cataractClin Dermatol. 2016;34(2):276-285. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2015.11.009

By Ashley Braun, MPH, RD
Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and public health professional with over 5 years of experience educating people on health-related topics using evidence-based information. Her experience includes educating on a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, HIV, neurological conditions, and more.