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Can Dry Eyes Cause Migraines?

It appears there definitely is a relationship between dry eyes and migraines, but more research is needed to fully understand it.


One study of 33 patients with migraine and 33 control patients without migraine or headache found patients with migraine had significantly more clinical signs of dry eye than individuals in the control group. The researchers concluded that at least some migraine attacks may be aggravated by the presence of dry eye syndrome.

In another study, researchers examined the corneas of two age- and sex-matched groups consisting of 19 chronic migraine patients and 30 control participants without migraine. The study results revealed that, compared with the control group, the migraine patients had a significantly lower density of nerve fibers within the cornea (a finding other researchers have associated with dry eye disease). The study authors also noted that all migraine subjects in the study had symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of dry eye disease.

Given the relatively small sample sizes of these studies, however, additional research is needed to provide a better understanding of the connection between dry eyes and migraine, in hopes it will lead to the development of new treatment options to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks among those who suffer from the condition. AAV

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Dr. Gary HeitingAbout the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care.

Page updated January 2018