More Evidence Links Dry Eye to Migraine


Is dry eye disease linked to migraine headaches? Research has hinted at an association between the two conditions, but the evidence hasn’t been conclusive. A 2019 study in JAMA Ophthalmology offers more reason to suspect that there is a connection.

Researchers analyzed data on 72,969 patients from University of North Carolina–affiliated healthcare facilities gathered between 2008 and 2018. Among them, 5,352 had a diagnosis of migraine, and 9,638 had been diagnosed with dry eye disease. Among migraine patients, the risk of having dry eye disease was significantly greater than that of patients without migraine. The association of the two conditions was most pronounced in people 55 to 64 years old.

The study looked exclusively at people from hospitals and clinics affiliated with a single metropolitan medical center, so the results may not reflect a broader population. And although researchers found an association between dry eye disease and migraine, the results don’t explain what the connection might be. Researchers don’t know whether one condition leads to the other in some way. One theory is that both dry eye disease and migraine have inflammation as an underlying cause.

If you suffer from migraine, the results suggest that you may be at higher risk of dry eye disease. Tell your doctor if you have eye discomfort (tearing, grittiness, itchiness, dryness); dry eye can be managed with eyedrops or other treatments.