Symptom types

Dry eye survey results > Symptoms > Symptom types

Data as of 7/11/2019

The question

Survey question #5 provides list of 22 dry eye symptoms and asks participants to score them as follows:

  • No

  • Yes (not a big deal)

  • Yes (bothersome)

  • Yes (primary symptom)

Participants can report multiple symptoms as their primary symptoms.

How many symptoms do we have?

Clearly, dry eye symptoms love company.

Participants reported an average 15 symptoms (out of 22) each. The lowest total number of symptoms reported was 4 and the highest was 21.

15 symptoms per participant (average)

Which symptoms are most common?

These are the top-ranked symptoms on the basis of simply tallying all the “yeses” regardless of the relative importance of those symptoms to the participant.

% of participants who reported these symptoms

Overall symptom ranking

These are all our symptoms in the list, in order of their total score (again, without regard to relative importance to partcipants).

  1. Irritated

  2. Dry feeling

  3. Eyes easily irritated by wind, smoke, etc.

  4. Burning

  5. Feeling of something in the eye

  6. Painful

  7. Eyes that are sensitive to light

  8. Gritty

  9. Eye fatigue (eyes tire easily)

  10. Stinging

  11. Sore

  12. Blurred or poor vision

  13. Fluctuating vision

  14. Redness

  15. Itchy

  16. Eyelids "sticking" together

  17. "Headache in the eye"

  18. Difficulty keeping my lids open

  19. Difficulty tolerating conventional contact lenses (soft, hard or RGP)

  20. Excess mucous production or mucous strands

  21. Watery

  22. "Menthol sensation"

  23. Something else not listed here

Breaking it down (examples)

Now we’ll look at some specifics of what people reported about some of the most common ones.

Look for the DARK RED as the symptoms that bother people the MOST.

Here are the top two, and they look very similar in terms of how bothered people are by them:

Irritated (96%)

Dry feeling (91%)

This next set - two symptoms that tied for 3rd place - get a little more interesting. While they were reported just as commonly, burning was far less likely to be marked as a primary complaint compared to eyes easily irritated by wind, etc. This points to the key role of environmental triggers of dry eye and to me, it’s good news, because that’s one of the more controllable factors (from moisture chamber glasses to humidification to other environmental mods).

Eyes easily irritated by wind, smoke, etc. (89%)

Burning (89%)


Other symptoms

(i.e. Comments from people who did not find their symptoms listed)

  • loss of eyelashes

  • I also have corneal lattice dystrophy and have recurrent corneal erosions with delayed healing. The excessive dryness contributes greatly to the erosions and delayed healing times.

  • recurrent eye infections

  • Corneal erosions during sleep. Specific pain when moving eye and pain when blinking Swollen round eye and lids Styes

  • Recurrent corneal erosions

  • (bothersome) hemorrhages

  • (bothersome) CCH - mild, likely a result of having dry eye for 20+ years...and Iim only 41, so they call it nonsenile CCH.

“I would like to share more about my dry eye symptoms”

We invite free-form comments about dry eye symptom types and patterns. Here are the responses.

  • eye pain fluctuates between eyes seemingly related to weather/changes in barometric pressure

  • I think hormones play a big role. I was much better while pregnant. I am worse before and during my period. I believe my dry eyes is autoimmune even if not Sjogren’s. My dry eye diagnosis preceded my Crohn’s diagnosis by a decade.

  • My eyes are seldom comfortable doesn't make any difference what time of year it is! The more drops I put in my eyes the worse they become! Every thing affects my eyes. I find warm compresses and cold compresses help with the pain. My eye lids become stiff.

  • Corneal pain became worse slowly over 6 months then became necessary to medicate. Dry eye symptoms then decreased dramatically.

  • Moisture chamber glasses saved my life. They look awful (you get used to the stares), they irritate sensitive skin below the eyes (you deal with it) but they provide comfort not found for me in any other way. The other joy of having them is I have been able to help others who asked because they have dry eye issues too and wondered about my wearing them.

  • The use of autologous serum tears has been fascinating to me. It seems there is some inconsistency in what the right concentration should be to obtain the most benefit in the daily use. I have used 20% and recently was increased to 50% at my request. I am very compliant with all my treatments (including daily PROSE wear) and yet I am left with dry patches on my corneas which contributes to fluctuating visual acuity.

  • Had upper eyelid surgery in my mid 30s which was botched by a supposedly leading plastic surgeon here (Bryan Mendleson) ....muscle and tendons were compromised, and I was left with lagophthalmos...which makes dry eye so much worse and more painful. This surgeon still practises and apparently lectures overseas....god help those people who will be affected by his negligence in the future!!! So I am challenged by two dreadful, debilitating conditions, which both feed into each other and result in terrible dry eye symptoms. It affects my confidence, my ability to work, my ability to socialise, and my head space generally. It absolutely negatively impacts on my physical, emotional and mental health. And now I worry for my daughter who has MGD blepharitis and works in air con and on the computer incredibly long hours. Her eyes make her feel so tried. People think she is teary a lot, as she puts lubricating drops in her eyes every ten mins.

  • The very worst part is air-conditioning. I can't tolerate moving air in my eyes. Has even gotten to the point that I have to wear both hat and goggles indoors, every where. It was really, really hard to go in public like that at first, but, people were very supportive and kind. Every once in a while, I get asked about the get-up. I tell most people that I have "eye issues" and they go on their way. I tell the most obnoxious that I am incognito. You'd be surprised how well that works!

  • I do think menopause has been a contributing factor to my dry eye condition. I often get very blurry eyes that make it difficult to see details of things (like reading signs in stores, etc.). It often feels like it's a "blob" of gunk in the way. But, I do not actively see any tangible mucus or something that has to be cleared off my eyeball.

  • I cannot seem to get rid of the irritation that feels like something "sticky" in one outer corner of one eye. I have been given an eye steroid cream and told it would clear it up in a week which it did not and then was told by recently that it was tear buildup and that IPL should help so I got more intense IPL on that area which helped for about two weeks.

  • My dry eyes were more manageable after I found the dry eye store online and started wearing a silicone eye mask every night. I never used eyedrops successfully prior to that. But after a corneal transplant I must use two prescription drops every day, with PF moisture drops 3-4 times a day. I have extreme astigmatism in the CT eye which requires a second procedure called AK in several months to correct the cornea surface.

  • My dry eye uncovered a pre-existing condition: my right eyelid is a close fit to my eyeball so I have a very painful cornea.

  • I had bad dry eye until I started getting recurring erosions which brought their own problems. Now my life revolves round tending my eyes. The dry eye is not any better but I try to keep symptoms at a minimum by cosseting.

  • Before PRK, I told my doctor I could not wear contacts because my eyes hurt and were dry. He did not look into why my eyes were dry. He told me just to use eye drops. After PRK is when the erosions began. Turns out, I've had lagopthlamos my entire life. My eyes don't even close when I'm sitting here blinking. It's like a half blink. I can be laying down and think my eyes are closed, but someone will ask why my eyes are halfway open. I believe this led to the MGD. Because my eyelids don't meet on blinks, it isn't forcing the oil out so then it becomes clogged. The erosions usually don't happen during the summer, but are frequent during the winter despite doing my normal gel/oil/drops/goggles routine at night time. I also take thera tears supplements. For the first 15 months after my surgery, I was non-functional as a human being. After having the amniotic membrane Prokera, I went to a semi "normal" life. I know I will never be normal again. I'm currently doing the serum drops and they seem to be helping. I think I may have corneal neuralgia and the serum is most likely treating that. But its also summer right now, so that helps a lot. When I go to humid places like Florida, my oils don't clog as often like back home in Kentucky. I do warm compresses normally once or twice a day and express my glands every other day as to not cause inflammation. This disease is about baby steps and finding your routine.

  • I love to do hot yoga,but find my eyes are significantly worse afterwards.

  • subconjunctival hemorrhages started 2 years of being on constant meds for my eyes. Not sure if my high eye pressure being elevated had anything to do with them. I am not off steroid drops so will see if that make a difference. Also about to have surgery for a blocked tear duct that could be related to the irritation of my left eye causing more frequent hemorrhages in that eye. Both eye doctors who diagnosed my blocked tear duct believe that there is a lodged plug from when I had them put in over 4 years ago. Why do doctors do the plug procedure if they can become "stuck" and cause such a horrible problem? It took 7 doctors to finally correctly diagnose why my left eye was so irritated and significantly worse than my right eye.

  • Work environment is a huge factor. In the past 5 years I left 2 positions partly due to the office environment. The air conditioning/ heating systems blew air directly at my desk. I was not allowed to modify the space to lessen the effect on my eyes. In addition, I do computer work and anything after 2 hours is too much for my eyes to take. The burning and redness is horrible. Seasonal allergens are the other huge factor. Spring is the worst. I can't stop itching. The sensation of having a foreign object in my eyes isn't related to anything specific that I have found but it is the absolute WORST part of my day.

  • I have problems when I get things in my eye. Since my eyes don't produce tears it is hard to get fuzz or an eyelast out of my eye once it is in my eye without having to touch my eye. this h

  • Dry eye is always there when I don't have my scleral lenses in. They make all the difference in the world as to if I'm experiencing dry eye. With them in I only somewhat notice my dryness; when I remove them for the night and in the morning without them in, my eyes are really feeling dry and irritated.

  • On a good day, my vision is 20/20, but on a bad day my vision is variable. My surgery eye is quite sore most of the time, but my good eye has lagophthalmos, and that creates dryness. I have pinquecula in both eyes. I have low tear volume and that makes my eyes quite sensitive.

  • My eyes just never feel clean. It's hard to explain.