Does a Humidifier Help Dry Eyes?


If you’ve ever had dry eyes, then you know the discomfort that occurs like stinging, burning, itching, pain and general soreness of your eyes. They can make your life miserable. In addition to other treatments, you may have been recommended to run a humidifier. But how does a humidifier help dry eyes?

What Causes Dry Eyes? 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that dry eyes could be more than just a temporary inconvenience. Described as “Ocular Surface Disease”, this refers to dry eye syndrome along with other eye disorders. 

The most common cause of dry eyes, however, is Meibomian gland dysfunction. This is associated with a lower content of oil in our tears. Another cause of dry eyes is blepharitis, which is an infection of the eyelid. Dry eyes are also a side effect of medication such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and painkillers. 

Tears are vital for the maintenance and functioning of the eye. If these tears are not produced well, quality or quantity-wise, it can lead to itchy and dry eyes. The surroundings we live in have a significant role to play in this matter. Levels of air pollution in cities, as well as the humidity in the air, can cause dry eyes.

Eyelids are the thinnest layer of skin on the human body, and this leaves the eyes vulnerable when conditions do not favor good eye health. 

Dry Eye Symptoms

humidifier help dry eyes

The symptoms of dry eyes include:  

  • irritation and redness
  • burning sensation 
  • watery eyes 
  • blurriness 
  • soreness in the eyes 
  • discomfort in the eyelids
  • a feeling that a foreign body or particle might be present 

According to the Mayo Clinic, if ignored, dry eyes could lead to eye infections, corneal damage to the eyeball, and ultimately vision loss. This can hinder your daily functioning. Vision is one of the main senses we rely on for our daily needs, and humidifiers can help with dry eyes. Let us understand how. 

Does a Humidifier Help Dry Eyes? 

Humidifiers add moisture to the air, thereby reducing its dryness. The reduced dryness consequently reduces the evaporation rate of the tears that keep the eyes healthy, clean, and lubricated.  

does a humidifier help with dry eyes

Will a Humidifier Help With Dry Eyes at Night? 

Sleeping with a bedside humidifier ensures that you have moisture in your room. This protects and allows your eyes to be at ease, thereby preventing dry eyes at night. 

What Is the Best Type of Humidifier for Dry Eyes? 

A clinical trial conducted at the New Zealand National Eye Centre in Auckland, New Zealand showed that the desktop humidifier potentially reduces the discomfort of dry eyes, especially with prolonged screen time. Cool mist humidifiers have been a consumer favorite when perceived as a remedy for dry eyes. This is primarily attributed to the fact that it negates the risks of burns and overheating that can be caused by the heating unit that boils the water in steam humidifiers. 

Can Humidity Make Dry Eyes Worse? 

It is the lack of humidity rather than the presence of it that can cause dry eyes. According to the experts at the University of Rochester Medical Center, humidity at 45% can be beneficial for the eyes. Excessive humidity can, however, aggravate allergies and worsen the symptoms of dry eyes. 

Can a Dehumidifier Cause Dry Eyes? 

When dehumidifiers are used excessively, they can potentially create conditions that stimulate dry eyes. This happens because excessive use of dehumidifiers might significantly reduce moisture in the air, causing tears to evaporate quicker and leaving the eyes feeling dry, itchy, and insufficiently lubricated. 

Is Steam Good for Dry Eyes? 

While steam can help reduce the severity of the symptoms of dry eyes, it is always recommended to use a facial steamer. Another option is to use steam goggles, which is a treatment offered by optometrists. These goggles help with the release of the oil film from  our tear glands, which in turn keeps our eyes lubricated and well maintained.

Steam has also been known to reduce inflammation caused by allergies, sinusitis, and fluid retention. This provides significant relief and helps your eyes feel better and function to the best of their abilities. 

Warm or Cool Mist Humidifier for Dry Eyes – Which Is Better? 

does sleeping with a humidifier help dry eyes

The mist from both warm mist and cool mist humidifiers is at the same temperature when it leaves the humidifiers. However, information-providing websites such as Everyday Sight have recommended cool mist humidifiers for dry eyes. 

Final Thoughts 

Humidifiers can help with dry eyes when incorporated into ongoing holistic treatment. On their own, humidifiers are capable of adding moisture to the air and reducing the evaporation of tears, which keeps your eyes lubricated. They must therefore be used along with other treatment methods, such as artificial tears, eye drops, and nutritional supplements, including vitamin A and omega-3.

Introducing changes such as regular breaks from screen time and reducing exposure to wind and pollutants where possible are also helpful in treating the symptoms of dry eyes. 

One can manage dry eyes best by consulting a medical professional to invest in the right humidifier according to one’s lifestyle and specific needs.