Dry eye symptoms and M.E. by Dr Charles Shepherd | 15 August 2018

August 15, 2018


Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon. Medical Adviser, ME Association.

Having dry eyes is a fairly common problem that occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears. There can be many reasons why you are not producing sufficient moisture and identifying a specific cause can be difficult.

Dry eyes can affect otherwise healthy people and are commonly associated with contact lenses, life/work in a hot/dry atmosphere, working with computer screens and growing older.

Some types of prescription-only medication can also cause dry eyes as a side effect – examples include antihistamines and antidepressants.

Female hormonal changes – the menopause, taking the contraceptive pill in particular – can also reduce tear production and may help to explain why dry eyes are more common in women.

 Dry Eye Syndrome

The symptoms of dry eye syndrome are mild for most people, although more severe cases can be painful and lead to complications.

Symptoms usually affect both eyes and often include:

  • feelings of dryness, grittiness or soreness that get worse throughout the day
  • burning and red eyes
  • eyelids that stick together when you wake up
  • temporarily blurred vision, which usually improves when you blink

Some people may also have episodes of watering eyes, which can occur if the eye tries to relieve the irritation by producing more tears.

Source: NHS Choices


Dry eyes and M.E.

Experiencing dry eyes is also a symptom that is quite often reported by people with M.E.

However, there has been no research evidence up till now to indicate that having dry eyes is more common in people with M.E. than it is in anyone else, or that it is possibly linked to an underlying disease process.

Dry eyes can also be a symptom of both eye disease and medical conditions that affect the production of tears by the lacrimal glands in the eyes.

In relation to M.E., this can be important when it comes to ensuring a correct diagnosis.

Sjogren's Syndrome

There is one condition in particular – Sjogren’s Syndrome – an autoimmune disease, whose primary symptoms are a reduced ability to produce tears and saliva. But it can also cause disabling fatigue, joint pains and other M.E.-like symptoms.

More information on the pathological and clinical overlaps between M.E. and Sjogren's Syndrome can be found in the clinical assessment section of the 2018 ME Association clinical and research guide.


Having a persistent problem with dry eyes should always prompt a visit to either your doctor or optician – just to make sure that it is not inked to either eye disease or another medical condition.

As far as treatment is concerned, it is usually pretty straightforward.

You can purchase what are called artificial tears in the form of drops, lubricants or ointment from a pharmacy or on prescription from your GP.

These can all be very helpful, providing immediate lubrication and relief – although they may need to be used for some time, even indefinitely.

More information including complications and severe dry eyes:

Image copyright: antoniodiaz / 123RF Stock Photo

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