What are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome?

Laura C. Fine, MD
The following are symptoms of dry eye syndrome (a decline in tear production):
  • Persistent sensation of grittiness in the eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Inability to shed tears
  • Burning sensation in low humidity or polluted air
The usual symptoms of dry eye include:

-- Stinging or burning eyes;
-- Scratchiness;
-- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes;
-- Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind;
-- Excess tearing;
-- Discomfort when wearing contact lenses.

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you should see an eye doctor, who can talk to you about potential treatments to relieve some of these symptoms.

The usual symptoms include:

  • Stinging or burning eyes
  • Scratchiness
  • Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
  • Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • Excess tearing
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses

Excess tearing from “dry eye” may sound illogical, but it can be understood as the eye’s response to discomfort. If the tears responsible for maintaining lubrication do not keep the eye wet enough, the eye becomes irritated. Eye irritation prompts the gland that makes tears (called the lacrimal gland) to release a large volume of tears, overwhelming the tear drainage system. These excess tears then overflow from your eye.


The main symptom of dry eye is usually a scratchy or sandy feeling as if something is in the eye. Other symptoms may include stinging or burning of the eye, episodes of excess tearing that follow periods of very dry sensation, a stringy discharge from the eye, and pain and redness of the eye. Sometimes, people with dry eye experience heaviness of the eyelids or blurred, changing, or decreased vision, although loss of vision is uncommon.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.