Dry Eye | Vision and Eye Health

Vision and Eye Health

Dry Eye

Dry eyes feel uncomfortable and interfere with daily life. Our ophthalmic specialists offer world-class care for dry eye disease.

Medically reviewed by Jeffrey Ma, M.D. on Aug. 07, 2024.

Male eye doctor speaking with a female patient in an eye exam room

Expert Care for Dry Eye Disease

Your eyes can feel mildly to moderately irritated if you have dry eye disease (also called dry eye syndrome). The condition can leave you feeling frustrated and make some daily activities difficult.

Evaporative dry eye disease is the most common form of dry eye syndrome. When your tears do not contain enough oil, they evaporate too quickly to lubricate your eyes.

Aqueous tear deficiency is another form of dry eye disease. It occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated.


Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease

The symptoms of dry eye can cause you to feel mild to moderate irritation. Symptoms can become very uncomfortable and interfere with daily activities if they are left untreated.

Common Symptoms

Signs you may have dry eye syndrome include: 

  • Blurred vision 
  • Burning or stinging 
  • Feeling like something is in your eye 
  • Itching 
  • Mucus or discharge from the eye 
  • Pain when you wear contact lenses 
  • Sensitivity to light 

Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome

A variety of medical conditions, environmental issues or other factors cause dry eye disease.

Common causes include:


Seasonal or environmental allergies (like pet dander) cause eye dryness and redness.

Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases like lupus, Sjogren's syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis can lead to dry eye syndrome.

Contact Lens Use

Contact lenses can block oxygen flow to your eyes. This leads to less tear production and possible tear film disorders.

Eyelid Disorders

Some eyelid disorders cause your eyelids to turn inward or outward. This can lead to dry eye disease.


Medicines like antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants and oral contraceptives can reduce your tear production.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Meibomian gland dysfunction is one of the most common causes of dry eyes. The oil glands in your eyelids do not produce enough oil, causing your tears to evaporate too quickly.


Risk Factors for Dry Eye Disease


People older than 50 are at a higher risk for dry eye. Tear production and meibum (oil) production declines with age.


Women are more likely than men to have dry eye due to fluctuating hormones, especially during pregnancy and menopause.


Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increase your risk of eye irritation and dryness.

Vitamin A and Omega-3 Deficiency

Low levels of vitamin A or Omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to dry eye syndrome.


Diagnosing Dry Eye

The cornea and external eye disease specialists at UC Davis Health Eye Center are known throughout the region for their expertise in managing dry eye disease.

Your provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history to diagnose dry eye. They will perform an eye exam to check:

  • The consistency and amount of tears your eyes produce
  • The health of your cornea and the inside of your eyelids
  • The structure of your eyelids and your ability to blink

Treatments for Dry Eye at UC Davis Health

The UC Davis Health Eye Center team offers a wide range of treatment options for dry eye disease. We are dedicated to helping you protect and preserve your vision and the health of your eyes. Our treatments include:

Autologous Serum Eye Drops

Serum eye drops come from the patient’s own blood serum. They resemble natural tears and contain important biological factors that can help treat dry eye disease.

Eyelid Thermal Treatment (TearCare®):

TearCare is an eyelid thermal treatment that combines localized heat therapy with manual compression of the eyelids. It treats meibomian gland dysfunction and improves oil production.

Medicated Eye Drops

Your provider may prescribe eye drops that help your eyes increase tear production.


Medicated ointment helps to reduce inflammation on the surface of your eyes.

Scleral contact lenses

Special contact lenses can help treat certain ocular surface diseases including dry eye disease.

Tear Duct Blocking

Small silicone plugs are placed in your tear ducts to slow your tears from draining. This helps your eyes retain more moisture and helps the tear film better lubricate your eyes.


Preventing Dry Eye Syndrome

Certain healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent you from developing dry eye.

These habits include:

  • Applying artificial tears when your eyes feel dry
  • Applying warm compresses (like a reheatable eye mask) to the eyelids every day to help promote healthy meibomian glands
  • Eating foods high in vitamin A (like carrots) and Omega-3 fatty acids (like fish)
  • Stopping smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
  • Using a humidifier in dry indoor environments
  • Wearing sunglasses to prevent wind from drying your eyes

How common is dry eye disease?

16MPeople in the U.S. have a dry eye diagnosis

Prevalence in Women

70%Increased risk of dry eye disease for women

Request an Appointment

As Sacramento's No. 1 hospital, you'll benefit from unique advantages in primary care and specialty care. This includes prevention, diagnosis and treatment options from experts in 150 specialties.

Referring Physicians

To refer a patient, you can submit an electronic referral form or call.



For questions and appointment information

Awards and Recognitions
USNWR Best Hospital badge

Ranked among the nation’s best hospitals

A U.S. News & World Report best hospital in cancer, cardiology, heart & vascular surgery, diabetes & endocrinology, ENT, geriatrics, neurology & neurosurgery, obstetrics & gynecology, and pulmonology & lung surgery.

Learn more
US News & World Report best Children’s Hospital badge

Ranked among the nation’s best children’s hospitals

A U.S. News & World Report best children’s hospital in diabetes & endocrinology, nephrology, and orthopedics*. (*Together with Shriners Children’s)

Learn more
USNWR best regional hospital badge

Ranked Sacramento’s #1 hospital

Ranked Sacramento’s #1 hospital by U.S. News, and high-performing in COPD, colon cancer surgery, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, hip fracture, hip replacement, kidney failure, leukemia, lymphoma & myeloma, lung cancer surgery, ovarian cancer surgery, pneumonia, prostate cancer surgery, stroke, TAVR, uterine cancer surgery, gastroenterology & GI surgery, and orthopedics.

Learn more
Magnet designation badge

The nation’s highest nursing honor

UC Davis Medical Center has received Magnet® recognition, the nation’s highest honor for nursing excellence.

Learn more
Chime acute badge

“Most Wired” for acute care

UC Davis Health has been recognized as a level 10 out of 10 in the Digital Health “Most Wired” program from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The honor recognizes excellence in using technology to improve the delivery of care.

Learn more
Chime ambulatory badge

“Most Wired” for ambulatory care

UC Davis Health has been recognized as a level 10 out of 10 in the Digital Health “Most Wired” program from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The honor recognizes excellence in using technology to improve the delivery of care.

Learn more
NCI badge

World-class cancer care

One of ~56 U.S. cancer centers designated “comprehensive” by the National Cancer Institute.

Learn more

A leader in health care equality

For the 11th consecutive year, UC Davis Medical Center has been recognized as a “Leader in LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality.”

Learn more
See more