Sand in the eyes – causes and treatment

Sand in the eyes – causes and treatment

The feeling of sand in the eyes is one of the most common complaints with which patients turn to ophthalmologists. We understand what this unpleasant symptom can signal.

Tears are a fluid produced by special glands to wet the surface of the eye. It forms a film consisting of three layers: lipid (or outer ), medium (watery) and mucin (mucous). The lipid layer should prevent evaporation, the watery one is responsible for cleansing, removing bacteria, and the mucin layer evenly distributes moisture over the surface of the eye. If we generalize the factors that contribute to the development of dry eye syndrome, then this is an increased evaporation of the tear film due to external factors and insufficient secretion of moisture.

Causes of the sensation of sand in the eyes

Doctors say that the causes of this condition can be different. The most common causes of dry eyes are:

  • Non-observance of hygiene of vision (wrong mode of operation, lighting). People at the end of the working day from reading texts from a computer screen, looking through documents, drivers after a long road and schoolchildren after school lessons and doing homework get overtired and the natural barrier dries up;
  • Inflammation caused by an allergy, bacterial or viral infection, such as conjunctivitis
  • Dry eye syndrome (DES), also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca ;
  • Violations of the activity of the lacrimal glands, for example, due to a violation of the drinking regimen;
  • Incomplete closure of the eyelids ( lagophthalmos );
  • The growth of the conjunctiva on the cornea ( pterygium );
  • In the literal sense, the ingress of sand, dust or other foreign body into the eye.

❗ If a feeling of sand appeared after household chemicals or caustic food substances (vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda) got into the eye, rinse with running warm water as soon as possible, contact an ophthalmologist or call an ambulance. The first symptoms often indicate a mild degree of damage, but a little later, irreversible changes can occur, such as blindness. Doctors will help remove possible particles of foreign bodies, wash the eyes again with neutral antiseptic solutions. They will also determine the cause, severity and depth of the lesion, based on which they will prescribe therapy.

What signs and symptoms accompany the sensation of sand in the eyes?

  • Redness, bright vascular pattern;
  • Dryness, itching, increased lacrimation ;
  • Decreased visual acuity, fog before the eyes.

Diagnosis and treatment

If you have similar symptoms, you should visit an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. At first, the sensations may not be noticeable or cause much discomfort, but if they are ignored, it can lead to unpleasant consequences, such as often worsening inflammation and blurred vision.

Treatment for this condition can be conservative and directly depends on the root cause of the pathology. Before proceeding with treatment, the specialist will first of all conduct a visiometry in order to characterize the patient’s condition – the usual vision test. To assess the condition of the anterior segment of the eye (cornea, anterior chamber of the eyeball, lens, conjunctiva and eyelids), biomicroscopy using a slit lamp will be required. As auxiliary methods to clarify the diagnosis, the eyes are examined using an ophthalmoscope and a refractometer in order to examine the fundus in detail.

To predict possible relapses, a tear function study is performed, for this a Schirmer test is performed – determining the level of tear production and a fluorescein test to determine the tear film rupture time.

With dry eye syndrome, artificial tear preparations, the composition of which is as close as possible to the natural one, can be prescribed first of all. Drops eliminate the symptom, but not the cause, they make up for the lack of lacrimal fluid, help get rid of dryness, itching, redness. Additionally, the doctor may prescribe drugs that accelerate regeneration.

If you wear contact lenses, you may need to replace them with glasses during treatment and consult with your doctor about the selection of thinner breathable one-day models to get rid of discomfort. In addition, they are convenient because they do not require special care and storage. There is practically no risk of bacterial or fungal infection when wearing such contact lenses.

In cases where the cause of the disorder is associated with hormonal changes or the use of concentrated oral contraceptives, the ophthalmologist refers the patient to an endocrinologist to diagnose and develop a treatment plan for the underlying disease, as well as select another drug to eliminate the adverse reaction. Also, the ophthalmologist can refer you for a consultation with a rheumatologist, allergist, neurologist or infectious disease specialist.


To avoid the feeling of sand in the eyes, it is enough to eliminate risk factors, follow simple rules:

  • It is important to protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation with quality sunglasses, wear hats with visors or wide brim;
  • Keep household chemicals, caustic substances, as well as drops and other medicines not intended for the eyes, from children;
  • If you are doing repairs yourself, avoid working in dusty or poorly ventilated areas, or outdoors without goggles, a mask, or a shield;
  • Carefully read the instructions and warnings on the packaging of any products and cosmetics before using them;
  • Turn away when pouring pipe cleaner down the sink;
  • Use caution when using lighter fluid, self-defense products (pepper spray), other aerosols (alcohol-based throat sprays, hairspray);
  • Refrain from eyelash extensions. The glue used for extensions can also lead to a chemical burn or a severe allergic reaction;
  • At the slightest discomfort, dryness, use moisturizing eye drops and consult an ophthalmologist if symptoms begin to bother you more often;
  • Control the dynamics of the course of chronic diseases, do not start inflammation of the eyes and complete the treatment.

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