Dry eye

Woman sitting by desk

Dry eye is a really common condition caused by a problem with your tears. It can make your eye feel dry, scratchy uncomfortable or like there is something in your eye all the time.

Although it can be irritating dry eye won’t lead to permanent sight loss and often the symptoms can be managed easily.

Download our Understanding Dry Eye guide

Our Understanding Dry Eye guide is accredited by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. It’s designed to give you a detailed understanding of your eye condition and helpful advice on next steps.

Understanding dry eye

Dry eye is caused by a problem with your tears. When you blink you leave a thin layer, called the tear film, over the front of your eye. This tear film keeps the front of your eye healthy and helps the eye focus properly, giving you clear vision.

The tear film is made up of three layers which includes the mucin layer, watery layer and lipid layer. If you don't produce enough tears, if your tears aren't of the right quality or your tears aren't spread across the front of your eye properly then you may develop dry eye.

Often dry eye is a natural symptom of getting older but can also be affected by other things such as medications, pre-existing health conditions, use of contact lenses and eye surgery.

In the below video, Alison talks about her diagnosis of dry eye and how she manages it.


If your eyes feel dry, uncomfortable and irritated or you feel like there’s something in your eye all the time, then you should tell your GP, optometrist (optician) or ophthalmologist (hospital eye doctor).

After taking a detailed history and examining the front of your eyes, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may want to carry out further tests to help them decide how to treat your eyes.

The types of test that an optometrist might undertake are covered in detail in our Understanding Dry Eye guide (see download links at the beginning of this page).


You can’t "cure" dry eye, but there are some treatments that can help your eyes feel more comfortable.

Once your ophthalmologist, optometrist or GP has confirmed you have dry eye, they will discuss what can be done to help you.

There are three main ways to treat dry eye:

  1. Making the most of your natural tears
  2. Using eye drops
  3. Reducing the drawing away of tears

All three of these treatments are looked at in detail in our Understanding Dry Eye download guide. 


Knowing RNIB is there is so reassuring, like a comfort blanket

Peter Seaman

You can get support with your eye condition with RNIB


Helpful organisations

Moorfields Eye Hospital has a useful information resource called Know Your Drops, with advice and tips on the best techniques to administer eye drops and information about compliance aids.

NHS Choices has advice and information on dry eye.

How to get involved

About this guide

Eye health information disclaimer

Make a difference

One in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime. By making a donation, you can help us provide vital advice, information and support when people need it most. 
Donate right now