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How to Get Rid of A Gritty Feeling in Your Eye?

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a man working at a desk in an office rubs his eyes due to grittiness

If your eyes feel gritty, dry, or uncomfortable, how can you relieve this feeling? Don’t worry—you’re not in this alone. 

Your eye doctor may have several ideas on what’s causing this discomfort and how they can help your eyes feel better. With their help, you can enjoy comfortable vision. 

Continue reading to learn more about grittiness and how you can relieve that feeling. 

That Gritty Feeling: What Is It & What Causes It? 

Gritty eyes mean that your eyes feel scratched, irritated, or like there’s something in your eye without anything physically causing your discomfort. Another word for gritty eyes is foreign object sensation. It’s common for your eye to feel gritty, painful, or watery. 

Grittiness isn’t a condition itself but a symptom of another problem. Your eyes can feel gritty and uncomfortable for several reasons. 

When Should You Visit Your Optometrist? 

If you have gritty eyes, you may wonder when it’s time to visit a doctor. While you don’t need to rush in immediately, you shouldn’t ignore this symptom. Visit your eye doctor for an eye exam if you experience grittiness for more than a few days

Your optometrist can complete a thorough eye exam to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Causes of Gritty Eyes

Some potential causes of gritty eyes include: 

  • Dry eyes
  • Blepharitis 
  • Photokeratitis 
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Stye
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction 
  • Conjunctivitis 
  • Corneal issues
  • Fungal keratitis 
  • Ocular rosacea

Dry eyes and grittiness are common for many people—several causes of gritty eyes (meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis, and Sjogren’s syndrome) can lead to dry eye disease. 

What Is Dry Eye Disease? 

Dry eye disease (dry eye) is a common and chronic condition where your tears cannot properly hydrate your eyes, leading to discomfort. Approximately 30% of Canadians have dry eyes, living with gritty, irritated eyes and blurry vision. You typically experience dry eyes due to complications in the tear film

Your tear film is essential for hydrating and protecting your eyes, but it may struggle to do this when one or more layers have problems. Each layer of the tear film (mucus, water, and oil) has a specific role in helping the eye function at its best

  • The mucus layer helps keep tears fastened to the eye & spreads them across its surface. 
  • The water level keeps the eye moist & protects it by washing away debris.
  • The oil layer helps prevent tears from evaporating too quickly. 

Problems in the tear film can lead to dry eyes, occurring for several reasons. One common cause of dry eyes is meibomian gland dysfunction, a condition where the oil-producing glands lining your eyelids, the meibomian glands, become clogged or blocked. Blocked glands can cause tears to evaporate quicker, drying the eyes. 

Besides issues with the meibomian glands, other factors can contribute to dry eye disease, including: 

If you develop dry eyes, you may experience many uncomfortable symptoms. 

a woman rubs her eye due to grittiness caused by dry eye

Dry Eye Symptoms

Besides gritty eyes, dry eye can lead to several symptoms, including: 

  • A stinging, burning, scratchy sensation in the eyes
  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Red eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye fatigue 

How to Get Rid of the Gritty Feeling in Your Eye 

The best way to treat gritty eyes depends on the cause of your irritation. Your eye doctor will recommend a customized treatment plan after examining your eyes. 

Depending on your symptoms, they may recommend: 

  • Eye drops for temporary moisture
  • Prescription eye drops
  • Punctal plugs to prevent faster tear evaporation
  • Eye ointments
  • Warm compresses for the eye
  • Eyelid massages
  • Eyelid cleansers

Eye Drops

Prescription eye drops are a common way to treat dry and gritty eyes, helping address the root cause of your symptoms. These eye drops work differently depending on what relief you need. Some products reduce inflammation, while others help increase tear production. 

One prescription product is Restasis, which treats dry eye by relieving inflammation in your eyes and tear ducts. Addressing this inflammation helps improve tear production and dry eye symptoms. 

At-Home Products

Many at-home products exist to treat dry eye at home, helping you relieve gritty and irritated eyes. These products can treat the source of dry eyes, preventing future discomfort. 

These products can include: 

  • Warm compresses: A warm compress can help boost tear quality & relieve symptoms. 
  • Eyelid cleansers: Eyelid wipes & cleansers can help ease irritation around the eyelids & maintain future irritation
  • Artificial tears: Over-the-counter eye drops simulate real tears, providing temporary moisture. 

Find Relief from Gritty, Dry Eyes

Gritty eyes don’t need to be an everyday experience—you can enjoy long-term comfort with help from your eye doctor. They can diagnose and treat the source of your symptoms, recommending a customized treatment plan for your needs. Contact your optometrist if you experience gritty or uncomfortable eyes.

Written by Dr. Robert MacAlpine

Dr. MacAlpine graduated from Queen’s University, and attended the New England College of Optometry in Boston, MA. He graduated in 1999 with clinical and academic honours and was recipient of the Alcon Award for Most Outstanding Contact Lens Clinician. His internships included Pediatric and Low Vision focused training, several Veteran Affairs Hospitals in the greater Boston area, and the Barnet Dulaney Cataract and LASIK Center in Phoenix, Arizona. After graduating, Dr. MacAlpine established a successful practice and optical store in the Boston area. Practicing in the United States allowed him privileges of treatment and prescribing for eye diseases that were not permitted to Ontario Optometrists until 2011. Robert was thrilled to return to his native Ontario in 2011 to raise his two daughters, Deanna and Ella with his wife Amy. He enjoys playing hockey and being active with his family.
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