Dry eye disease is a common condition that occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough quality tears to lubricate and nurture your eyes. There can be many reasons for this, like poor quality tears, which leads to inflammation and the eye surface getting damaged. It causes discomfort and the eyes may burn. Mostly we experience dry eye while sitting in an air-conditioned room or riding a bike or when looking at computer screens for long hours.

According to the National Health and Wellness Survey, dry eye disease affects about 16.4 million people in the United States. Some medications can also cause dry eyes. Let us check in detail what medications cause severe dry eyes! 

What medications cause severe dry eyes?

Medications are a necessary part of life, but some may cause side effects like dry eyes. It is better to know the side effects of medications and manage them with proper care.


Mood stabilizers also cause dry eyes. Antidepressants block signals between nerve cells leading to insufficient production of the water layer of your tear film and also the oil layer. These antidepressants are used for depression and may cause anticholinergic side effects, stopping lacrimal glands to function or producing fewer tears resulting in dry eyes.


Antihistamines are prescribed if you are allergic to pollen, dust, or pets, for a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. But it has a side effect of drying the tear film which keeps the eye lubricated and healthy. Though taking antihistamines produces tears, those tears quickly vaporize. If you are not sure that your eye irritation is due to allergies, then consulting a doctor ensures a proper treatment for healthy eyes.


The mucin layer is the deepest layer of the fear film and acts as the glue supporting the tear film against the eye’s surface, its thickness varies from 0.8 mm cornea to 1.4 mm conjunctiva. Decongestants affect mucous production which hinders the mucin layer and the dry eye becomes severe.

Acne Medications

Acne medication products made with retinoic acid reduce the production of tears and oils, treating the acne by reducing the amount of oil production resulting in dry skin. Both water production and oil production should be balanced, imbalance causes eye dryness. It nearly takes a month to recover your tear film after you stop your acne medication.


Beta-blockers are prescribed for high blood pressure, heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms and can improve survival after a heart attack. They are common medications but can have different effects on the eye by reducing some microcomponents of tears which decreases the fluid production.

One must only take this when prescribed by a doctor as it causes major side effects on the eye.


Diuretics are prescribed to control high blood pressure, and also work on kidneys to increase water and salt amounts passed through the body which lowers blood pressure(in the form of urine. This reduction of water and salt in the body creates dehydration.

Drugs like Diuretics increase the risk of dehydration and affect the fluids producing tears resulting in dry eyes.

Gastrointestinal disorder medications

Proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers decrease the amount of acid in the stomach to treat gastrointestinal illness and damage tear production. H2 blockers prevent histamines which are related to mucus production and we should not if the body produces less mucus, we also get eye-related issues.

Usually, proton pumps treat stomach acid production and they also have some effect on tear production.

Pain Relievers 

Most pain relievers from ibuprofen to Darvocet-N and Lortab has a side effect resulting in dry eyes. Ibuprofen also produces other side effects such as blurred vision, refractive changes, diplopia, and color vision changes.  

Parkinson’s Disease Medication

Parkinson’s disease blocks overactive receptors between nerves and muscles. The lacrimal gland and meibomian glands may also be affected because they are connected to the central nervous system.

Chemotherapy medications

Some chemo drugs and cancer drugs make your eyes sore and cause dry eyes. Because these drugs cause a reaction inside your eyelids, so we feel grainy or fewer tears in the eyes. Sjogren syndrome and drug-like Cytoxan are used for both ocular cicatricial pemphigoid and primary Sjogren syndrome causing about 60% of patients to have dry eyes.  

It is very important to know the side effects of the medications before we try them and remember to consult a doctor before taking any medicines to be on the safer side. If you observe any eye irritation or side effects during your medication immediately get your eyes checked.