Waking up in the morning is hard enough, but waking up with stinging, burning eyes is even worse! If your eyes feel itchy and scratchy, this miserable morning sensation may be caused by dry eye syndrome. Your tear glands may be clogged or producing insufficient tears and oils to retain moisture.
But why do certain people experience more acute dry eye symptoms in the mornings? Here are some reasons:
What Causes Red, Itchy or Painful Eyes Upon Waking?
Nocturnal lagophthalmos is the inability to close one’s eyelids completely during sleep. Since the surface of your eye is exposed at night, it becomes dry. Left untreated, this condition can damage your cornea.
Blepharitis is an inflammatory condition of the eyes caused by bacterial overgrowth. These bacteria are active at night, causing dry eye-related symptoms of redness, soreness and irritation upon waking.
A gritty sensation in your eyes can also be caused by the environment. For example, sleeping directly in front of or under an air vent, heating units, or ceiling fans can dry out your eyes. In addition, sensitivity to allergens like dust that accumulate in the bedroom can cause your eyes to become dry and irritated.
Some types of over-the-counter and prescription medication can dehydrate the eyes. These include:
- Antihistamines and decongestants
- Antipsychotic medications
- Hypertension drugs
- Drugs for gastrointestinal problems
- Pain relievers
- Skin medications
- Chemotherapy medications
In the majority of cases, medication-related dry eye symptoms will resolve once you discontinue the meds. However, it may take several weeks or months for symptoms to completely disappear.
Many people develop dry eye symptoms with age, as tear production tends to decrease and becomes less efficient as we grow older.
How to Treat Morning Dry Eye
Depending on the cause, morning dry eye can be treated with sleeping masks, lubricating eye drops and ointment applied right before bed. To ensure that you sleep in a moisture-rich environment, consider using a humidifier. In severe cases of nocturnal lagophthalmos, eyelid surgery may be necessary.
If you are tired of waking up to red, burning eyes, visit your eye doctor for long-lasting relief. Contact Northwestern Eye Associates Dry Eye Center to determine the cause of your morning dry eye and receive an effective treatment plan.
- A: Dry eye can occur if the glands in your eyelids don’t produce enough oil to keep your tears from evaporating, or if you don’t produce enough water for healthy tears. No matter the cause, it’s important to have your condition diagnosed and treated to protect your vision and ensure good eye health.
- A: Dry eye is a chronic condition, so there's is no cure for it. However, many treatment methods can help you manage this condition for long-term relief. If you have dry eye syndrome, we invite you to contact us to discover the best treatment for your needs.
Northwestern Eye Associates Dry Eye Center serves patients from Mt. Dennis, Toronto, York and Rockcliffe Smythe, all throughout ON.