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The causes of dry eyes vary widely, depending on your age, gender, occupation, medical history and diet. Understanding the underlying causes allows effective treatments to be tailored to your eyes. Common causes include:

Changes in oestrogen levels

Menopause and pregnancy can cause thickening of the oils in the meibomian glands and cause them to block.

Prolonged computer use

Poor blinking and staring at screens and, in particular, digital devices like iPhones.  This reduces our blink rate considerably and exposes the eyes.

This allows the air (especially in air-conditioning) to dehydrate the ocular surface.


Dry climates, pollution, wind and air conditioning or fans can all increase evaporation of tears from the ocular surface. Beware of moving air!


As we age, the eyelids can sag away from the eyeball, so the important oils from the meibomian glands can’t enter the tear film.

Auto-immune disease

Certain systemic diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus can effect aqueous tear production. Sjogren Syndrome is an autoimmune disease that effects the aqueous tear glands as well as the salivary glands. Read more here.

Certain medications

Medications such as antidepressants and antihistamines can cause meibomian glands to block or aqueous tear production to be reduced (or both).


In this common disorder, the eyelids become inflamed and crusted. This impairs meibomian gland function by blocking the openings to the oil glands.


This is where the eyelids do not fully close during sleep, leading to an exposed ocular surface.

Contact lens wear

Lenses not only soak up available moisture in the eye, but also interfere with the tear film.

Meibomian gland dysfunction / MGD

Blocked oily tear glands are one of the most frequent causes of dry eye.

Dry eye is often caused by a combination of these factors, rather than a single factor. Causes vary with age and gender. Plummeting oestrogen levels tend to be the culprit in post-menopausal woman whereas prolonged computer use is often at the core of dry eye in teenagers and young adults.