One common cause of this uncomfortable condition that people tend to overlook is the use of medications. In fact, dry eye is a frequent side effect of many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pills that you likely have in your house right now.
How Do Medications Affect The Eye?
Medication side effects are unwanted, and sometimes unpleasant. While most of them can be mild, others as an upset stomach, or drowsiness, others can be more serious and cause more persistent effects.
In the case of dry eye when caused by medication, oftentimes it's because the prescribed or OTC treatment reduces the production of tears. When this happens, your eyes don’t have enough lubrication to function properly, resulting in a sandy or burning sensation, irritation, blurry vision and overall discomfort.
In other cases, medications may cause an imbalance in the chemical makeup of tears, which can cause irritation that leads to dryness.
Common Medications That May Cause Dry Eye
Blood Pressure Medication
Beta-blockers, which are blood pressure medications, are designed to block your body’s response to adrenaline. This helps slow your heartbeat and reduce your blood pressure. As a result of this slowed response, your body also produces less of the protein that makes up your tears, and in turn, you can experience dry eyes.
If you have allergies to things like grass, pollen, or pet dander and use a daily antihistamine (allergy pills), you know what a relief they can be when your allergies are flaring up. But these medications are intended to block your body’s response to the triggers that cause your itching, sneezing, running nose, and watery eyes. As a result, your body may produce fewer tears, and in some cases cause dry eye.
Birth Control Pills
It has been reported that women who take oral contraceptives as a method of birth control that contains estrogen can experience symptoms of dry eye. However, those who take birth control pills with both estrogen and progesterone are less likely to report this as a side effect.
Antidepressant medications block the signal between certain nerve cells. While these can be powerful in treating certain types of depression, it can be noticeable when those cells are the ones responsible for lubricating your eyes.
If you take an oral medication to treat severe acne, there is a chance it could be the cause of your dry eye. Most acne medications are designed to help reduce the amount of oils produced by your glands. However, since your eyes contain many glands, including the ones responsible for producing the oil in your tears, when the medication takes effect there’s a chance it will impact your tears.
Though a less frequent side effect, some pain relievers that fall under the anti-inflammatory category, like ibuprofen, can cause you to experience dry eye.
Here’s a list of other prescription and OTC medications that may cause dry eye symptoms:
- Beta Blockers
- Nitrous Oxide
How to Treat Dry Eye Caused By Medication?
Whether your dry eye problems are the symptom of a short-term medication or a lasting side effect of necessary daily treatment, you don’t need to suffer without a solution.
Speak with your healthcare provider about the side effects of your medication. They may consider changing your dose or switching you to a different medication with fewer side effects.
Start using daily eye drops (artificial tears) to soothe the discomfort of dry eye, and provide much-needed hydration and relief. Evolve™ Eye Drops are available in two varieties depending on the severity of your dry eye symptoms:
- Daily Intensive Eye Drops for mild-to-moderate symptoms
- Intensive Gel Drops for moderate-to-severe symptoms
Both Evolve™ products are expertly engineered to provide immediate, long-lasting relief for dry eye symptoms with an easy-squeeze bottle.
Use our Clinic Locator to find your nearest Evolve retailer.
(n.d.). Dry Eye. Penn Medicine. https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/dry-eyes
Azuse, E. (2021). 7 Medications that Cause Dry Eye. Health Grades. https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/eye-health/7-medications-that-can-cause-dry-eye
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