Why People with Dry Eyes May Be Slow Readers

Young woman is reading book

Chronic dry eye syndrome affects millions of American adults, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reports. People with this condition complain that their eyes burn and sting, feel gritty or look red. Recently, researchers discovered that dry eyes could impact people in many other ways. Learn why people with dry eyes may be slow readers.

Common condition

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition, especially for people age 50 and older. Normally, blinking can help refresh and wet eye tissues, but for people with dry eye syndrome, their eyes can’t make the number of tears they need.

In addition to experiencing pain and discomfort from dry eyes, people may be more sensitive to wind and any kind of smoke. Their eyes may overproduce tears to deal with these irritants.

Reading problems

Many people with dry eyes complain that they can’t focus on the words when reading. Often, they schedule an eye exam, but tests show their vision is fine.

This is frustrating for those who must maintain a certain level of productivity for school or work. People with dry eyes may be slow readers in part because extra time is spent deciphering words and rereading the text. In addition to dry eye therapies, large print or audio books may help along with following these three simple tips.

New research

To understand the reading problems that people with dry eyes experience, researchers at Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute studied the issue. They conducted reading tests with 186 people, age 50 and older. One group of 116 people were diagnosed as having clinically significant dry eye. The second group of 39 people had symptoms of dry eye, but their eye exams were normal. The third group of 31 did not have dry eye symptoms.

The researchers discovered that all participants did well on a standard reading test requiring them to read out loud. But a difference was found when they took a longer silent reading test. The 116 people diagnosed with clinical dry eyes read slowly, at 240 words per minute. In comparison, the other two groups read 272 words per minute. This confirms that people with dry eyes may be slow readers.


Researchers say that several factors can cause people to have dry eyes, such as medications, diseases or even a plugged oil gland. So, it’s difficult to diagnose the exact reason without testing and evaluation.

When symptoms of dry eye occur, researchers recommend first trying over-the-counter lubricating drops. But if the problem continues, contact your eye doctor for assistance. Treatment may include prescription eye drops, lifestyle changes, or surgery to insert plugs in the tear ducts. The plugs help tears flow into the eye instead of draining out.

A businessman using a tablet on a train

Blurred vision is another common problem people experience. Learn four reasons why this vision condition occurs.

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