Dry Eye vs. Eye Allergies: Which Is Affecting You?

November 16, 2018 — by William Goldstein
Tags: Dry Eye

Woman outside rubbing her eyes from allergiesMillions of people suffer from red, dry, itchy eyes. These symptoms can be caused by dry eye syndrome or seasonal allergies. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.

Today, our team at the Laser Eye Center in Detroit, MI discusses dry eye vs. eye allergies and explores the causes, symptoms, and treatments for each condition.

About Dry Eye Syndrome

Your tears are comprised of lipids, mucin, and water. When one or more of these elements are unbalanced, it can result in dry eyes. This condition is characterized by a gritty, burning, or sandy feeling.

Dry eye syndrome can be caused by certain medical issues. However, most cases are due to Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). Individuals with this disorder do not produce enough oils to adequately lubricate the eyes.

Dry Eye Symptoms

As aforementioned, dry eyes can cause a gritty feeling. Other symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Redness
  • Excessive watering
  • Burning or stinging
  • Thick discharge

About Eye Allergies

Also referred to as ocular allergy or allergic conjunctivitis, eye allergies are the body’s reaction to a particular irritant. The most common causes of eye allergies are mold spores, pollen, and other seasonal allergens. Indoor allergens, such as pet dander and dust mites, can also be to blame.

Eye Allergy Symptoms

There are several symptoms that can denote an eye allergy. Some of these include:

  • Redness
  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning or stinging
  • Inflamed eyelids
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery discharge

As you can see, several symptoms of dry eye and eye allergies overlap. For this reason, it is important to schedule a consultation with an experienced ophthalmologist at the first sign of problems. He or she can help diagnose the issue and recommend appropriate treatment.

How Allergies Can Exacerbate Dry Eyes

Recent research suggests that there is a connection between dry eye syndrome and eye allergies. Patients who suffer from dry eyes typically experience compounded problems during the warmer months, as they spend more time outdoors. Environmental elements such as sand, dust, chlorine, sunscreen, sunlight, and sweat will further exacerbate these issues.

Which Condition Is Affecting Me?

Though there is a clear link between dry eye and eye allergies, it is essential to obtain a proper diagnosis. The best way to do this is to see your ophthalmologist.

In general, however, if you only experience red, watery, itchy eyes in the spring and summer, you probably have allergies. If these symptoms are present year-round, you could be suffering from dry eye syndrome.

Available Treatments

No matter which condition you have, your ophthalmologist can design a personalized treatment plan to address your needs.

Patients with dry eye will need lubricating eye drops, and may also benefit from other treatments, such as punctal plugs or Meibomian gland expression.

Those with seasonal allergies can be prescribed anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce the effects of irritation.

Contact Us to Learn More

If you suffer from dry, red, itchy, or burning eyes, you are not alone. To learn more about your treatment options, schedule a visit with Dr. Goldstein. Call us at (586) 323-2020 or contact us online anytime.