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Gritty Eyes: Why Do My Eyes Feel Like They Have Sand?

Do you often feel like there is sand in your eyes even though you have not been to the beach? Do not worry, you are not alone. And just so you know, all the eyelash or particle inspections you conduct can worsen the sensation.

And if you are not sure what we are talking about, gritty eyes give you a scratchy or irritating sensation in the eyes without anything being in the eye. Even though your eyes have no particles, eyelashes, dust, or sand, you can still experience the feeling of irritation as if there is something in your eyes.

Unfortunately, this can affect your work and social life if it goes on for too long. Similarly, you could sustain injury trying to rub out what you think is may be in your eye.

Luckily, several medical and home remedies will make your eyes feel normal again. You can prevent gritty eyes by following these tips. However, this information will focus on what is causing your gritty eyes since it can have nothing to do with sand or debris.

What Causes Gritty Eyes?

Gritty eyes do not just occur. Several conditions, ranging from mild to severe, cause gritty eyes. The most common conditions you could be suffering from include:

Dry Eye Syndrome

This is the most common cause of gritty eyes where your eyes do not have enough lubrication. It often triggers scratchiness, gritty sensations, burning, and stinging. Long-term systems damage the eye and trigger infections. It is important to note that dry eyes are more common in people above 50, so age could trigger the condition.


This is a condition you develop pain in the eyes after exposure to ultraviolet rays. It is often known as sunburnt eyes and affects the corneas, or the clear surface of the eye, leading to pain. It is caused by welding torches, looking directly at the sun or a solar eclipse, and reflection from the snow. Luckily, it is temporary and lasts a few days, but until after those days, you will have gritty eyes.

Corneal Abrasion

Cornea abrasion means you have a scratch or tear on the cornea due to contact with fingernails, a makeup brush, and other items. It will feel like something is stuck in your eye, and you experience severe pain.


Styes are fairly common, where a small pimple or bump develops on the base of an eyelash. Sometimes it also appears under the eyelid. The swelling may have pus due to bacterial infection and trigger a gritty sensation in the affected eye.


This is inflammation of the eyelids. The eyelids will swell, turn red, and you will experience a burning and gritty sensation in the eyes. Some patients also notice crust around the base of the eyelashes.

Meibomian Gland Malfunction

You can find meibomian glands on the rim of the eyelids. They help produce the tears that lubricate the eye. When they become clogged or have insufficient oil, you will experience irritation, gritty eyes, blurry vision, itching, and watering.


Eye allergies occur when an allergen irritates you, and the eyes produce histamine. You will experience redness, swelling, burning, gritty sensation, tearing, and itchiness when this happens.

Pink Eye

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is the irritation of the clear tissue that covers the white of the eye, known as the conjunctiva. Pink eye comes with various symptoms, including blurry vision, light sensitivity, gritty sensation, burning, redness, and pus from the eye.

Vitamin A Deficiency

The severe lack of vitamin A in the body triggers dry eye syndrome, which will lead to a gritty sensation in the eyes.

Pinguecula and Pterygium

A pinguecula is a protein, fat, or calcium lump that appears on the conjunctiva in the inner corner of your eye, near your nose. A pterygium also occurs on the conjunctiva and is a fleshy tissue growth with blood vessels. Both growths come with various symptoms but a common complaint is gritty eyes.

Ocular Rosacea

While rosacea is a skin disease that causes acne-like bumps on the face, it can also affect the eyes. It will trigger burning, swelling, clogged oil glands, and a gritty sensation.

Thyroid Disease

This is the malfunctioning of the thyroid, which in turn triggers eye symptoms including watery eyes, redness, double vision, gritty sensation, and difficulty closing the eyes, sometimes due to bulging.

Sjögren Syndrome

This syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects people over the age of 40, especially women. Symptoms of Sjögren include dry eyes and dry mouth. As previously mentioned, dry eyes trigger a gritty sensation.

Other Medical Conditions

Besides what we have mentioned above, several medical conditions trigger eye symptoms in patients. Diabetes is a common disease linked to eye symptoms, including gritty eyes. Other conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma.

Other Factors That Cause Gritty Eyes

Use of Contact Lenses

And lastly, long-term use of contact lenses can lead to various dry eye symptoms, including gritty eyes. It often occurs due to improper cleaning and storage, so you should always follow your doctor’s instructions on caring for contacts.


Laser eye surgery, while helpful, can also trigger dry eye when you are recovering. This will lead to a gritty feeling in the eyes. Luckily, this is temporary and a doctor should prescribe eye drops to prevent it.

Reaction To Medication

Some antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, acne creams, decongestants, and even eye drops can also cause dry eyes that contribute to a gritty feeling. The list is long, so you should always check your medications for possible side effects.

Environmental Factors

You cannot avoid certain environmental factors. Exposure to various conditions can lead to gritty eyes. For example, exposure to smoke, wind, dry air, and dust can cause gritty eyes. Similarly, lifestyle choices like staring at a screen for too long reduce blinking, which leads to dry eyes and a gritty sensation.

Final Thought On Gritty Eyes

Gritty eyes has a variety of causes. Medication and treatment are available for the conditions that cause gritty eyes. Therefore, you should visit your ophthalmologist when you develop gritty eyes for prompt treatment.

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