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Eye and Vision Care

Dry eyes only while sleeping

07/26/2005

Question:

I am a 26 year old contact wearer who has recently started experiencing extremely dry eyes while sleeping. Essentially it seems when asleep, there is no moisture being produced for the eyes and I wake up with totally dry, crusty eyes. No problems during the day when my contacts are in or if I take them out and are not sleeping. Use of saline solution during the night helps temporarily, but after a couple hours of sleep after application, the condition returns. Tried adding humidifier to the room to no effect. High level of computer use at work and home. No eye surgeries.

Answer:

I can't be sure without examining you, but you may have a condition known as exposure keratitis caused by an incomplete closure of your eyelids during sleep. If left untreated, this could lead to recurrent corneal erosion (RCE), a painful condition due to extremely dry eyes upon waking in the morning.

Recommended treatments for incomplete lid closure during sleep include the use of ointments at night and/or taping your eyelids closed. If neither of these first aid measures is effective, you should see your optometrist for a more definitive diagnosis and treatment, including a re-evaluation of the water content of your current contact lens material.

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Response by:

Robert D Newcomb, OD, MPH, FAAO Robert D Newcomb, OD, MPH, FAAO
Professor Emeritus of Clinical Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University