Can Dry Eye Cause Floaters?

Dry eye and floaters are not related, but both become more common with age.

Dry eyes and floaters are both common eye ailments that affect people as they age.

Dry eye is a condition where the eyes don’t produce enough quality tears to lubricate, clean, and moisturize their surface. This causes symptoms including redness, itching, and burning eyes, and it can lead to vision problems if it’s not treated and vision changes if severe. 

Eye floaters are shapes that appear in the line of vision. Floaters aren’t dangerous, although they can be a sign of an underlying issue.

Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of floaters and dry eye, and when to seek medical treatment for either condition.

Woman putting in eye drops

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Are Dry Eyes and Floaters Connected? 

Dry eyes and floaters are not connected. Dry eye is linked with tear production and function. People with dry eye either don’t produce enough tears, or their tears evaporate too quickly. This causes the eye to become dry and irritated.

Floaters are most commonly caused by normal age-related changes in the eye. Aging causes the vitreous humor (a gel-like substance in the eye) to deteriorate and become more liquid, which allows particles to float more freely. However, floaters can also be a sign of a more serious condition, such as retinal holes, tears, or detachment.

Although the conditions aren’t related, you might begin experiencing them at the same time, since both conditions are closely correlated with aging. The conditions also share some risk factors: for example, people with certain medical conditions like autoimmune diseases and those causing inflammation are at increased risk for both dry eye and floaters. 

What Causes Dry Eyes and Floaters? 

Dry eyes and floaters might occur in the same people, but they have different causes. 

 Causes of Dry Eye

The causes of dry eye are either too little tear production or tears that evaporate too quickly, usually because tears are of poor quality. This can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • Under-active tear glands. In some people, the glands that produce tears (the lacrimal glands) are under-active. 
  • Structural problems or inflammation in the eye. Some people have tear ducts or a bottom lid that allow tears to drain too quickly from the eye. Other people develop structural issues with age, such as entropion (where the eyelid turns in) or ectropion (where the eyelid turns out). Blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids, can contribute to this. 
  • Environmental factors. Environmental factors can also cause dry eye. For example, staring at screens reduces the number of times you blink, making it difficult to spread tears properly. Hot, dry, or smoky weather can cause tears to evaporate quickly, leading to dry eye. Contacts can also interfere with normal tear function. 

Causes of Floaters

The causes of floaters are often related to normal aging. As we get older the gel-like vitreous humor, which fills our eyes, becomes more liquid. This can cause strands of cellular material to float in the gel, creating floaters or spots. 

In other cases, floaters can be caused by illness or injury, including:

  • Eye injuries or inflammation, including bleeding in the eye
  • Eye infection
  • Retinal tear or detachment, when the retina comes out of place
  • Vitreous detachment, when the vitreous humor separates from the retina.

Symptoms of Dry Eyes and Floaters

 The symptoms of dry eye or floaters can be irritating. 

Symptoms of dry eyes

 The symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Painful or burning sensation
  • Feeling that there is something in your eye
  • Redness
  • Watery or mucousy eyes
  • Blurry vision

Symptoms of floaters

 The symptoms of floaters include:

  • Squiggly lines, threads or cobwebs that disappear when you look directly at them
  • Shapes that move, even when your eyes are still

Treatment for Dry Eyes and Floaters 

It’s important to treat dry eye, both for your comfort and in order to avoid vision changes.

Floaters, on the other hand, don’t require treatment. However, you should see your healthcare provider immediately if you have increased floaters, flashes, blurred spot in vision, a curtain coming over vision.

Treatment for dry eye

The treatment for dry eye depends on the cause of your dry eye. There are lifestyle changes that can help to manage dry eye symptoms. Strategies may include taking vitamins and supplements, staying hydrated, wearing sunglasses, and limiting screen time.

Dry eye can also be treated with prescription eye drops that encourage tear production or tear duct plugs that prevent tears from draining too quickly. If you have dry eye, a telehealth visit or an in-person consultation with a healthcare provider can help you determine the right treatment for you. 

Summary

Dry eye and floaters are both eye conditions that can develop with age. However, the two conditions are not related. It's important to see your healthcare provider about treatment options for dry eye, as the condition can lead to damage to the surface of the eye and changes in vision if left untreated. Floaters are mostly harmless, but can be a sign of a more serious medical condition, so seek out medical help if they persist.

 A Word From Verywell

Dry eyes and floaters are both irritating eye conditions. Although they’re not directly related, both dry eye and floaters are more common as people age. They can also be exacerbated by medical conditions like autoimmune diseases or eye trauma. Because of that, you might find yourself dealing with both dry eyes and floaters. 

If you have dry eye, it’s important to treat the condition to avoid vision changes. You can make lifestyle changes like increasing hydration and reducing screen time, but it’s also a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider about treatments like prescription eye drops that can increase tear production. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do I suddenly have eye floaters?

    If floaters come on suddenly or are accompanied by flashes, they can be a sign of vitreous detachment, a condition where the vitreous humor separates from the retina. This can lead to retinal detachment, which could potentially cause blindness. Because of this, it’s important to see a doctor quickly if you suddenly experience a number of new floaters. 

  • Does eye strain cause floaters?

    Floaters are caused by changes to the vitreous humor, the gel-like substance within the eye. This occurs naturally with aging, or due to eye trauma, but eye strain won’t cause floaters.

  • Can lack of sleep cause eye floaters?

    Eye floaters are usually related to changes in the vitreous humor, and are not correlated with temporary circumstances like a lack of sleep. However, lack of sleep can contribute to dry eye.

  • Does dry eye make floaters worse?

    Dry eye is not related to floaters. Dry eye is an irritation on the surface of the eye due to inadequate moisture. Floaters, on the other hand, occur due to changes in the consistency of the gel-like substance that’s inside our eyes.

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3 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. American Optometric Association. Dry eye.

  2. National Eye Institute. Floaters.

  3. American Optometric Association. Floaters & spots.