Dry eye and seasonal allergies can be hard to distinguish. They share some symptoms like irritation, burning sensation, or scratchiness. If you are experiencing such symptoms but are unsure what the problem could be, read on to learn whether you have dry eye or seasonal allergies.
A dry eye is a condition that dries up the eye surface due to a lack of adequate tears for lubrication and moisture. It occurs due to tear imbalance and eye glands that do not produce enough tears. The most common dry eye symptoms are dryness, light sensitivity, and feeling like you have a foreign object in your eye. You can also feel a burning sensation, eye fatigue, and blurry vision.
Individuals above 65 years and women in their postmenopausal years have a high risk of developing dry eye. You can also develop dry eye if you spend time in arid, windy, and dry areas. Your eye lubrication can also get affected if you smoke due to the chemicals in the cigarettes. Wearing contact lenses and looking at computers or digital screens for long hours increase dry eye risk.
Seasonal allergies are allergy symptoms that develop during certain times of the year. They often occur when weeds, grasses, and trees release pollen particles into the air to fertilize other plants.
The particles released in the air are allergens. They act as invaders to the immune systems of people allergic to them. As a result, the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream, including histamine, to fight the allergens. The release causes allergy symptoms.
When allergens like pollen or pet dander irritate your eyes, histamine gets produced. Your eyes begin tearing, itching, and becoming red. You can develop light sensitivity, dark circles, and constant swelling up of tears. The skin around and beneath your eye also swells.
The preliminary way to distinguish dry eye and seasonal allergies is through the degree of itch. Eye allergies cause the eyes to have a burning and very itchy sensation. They swell up and become watery and red when you rub them. So if you have a mild itch or your eyes are not itching, you could have dry eyes.
Tearing also distinguishes seasonal allergies from dry eye. Constant tearing is often because of an allergic reaction. A dry eye often does not cause a lot of tears. But when it happens, they may not be as much as those of someone with an allergic reaction.
Eye allergies cause eye puffiness and swelling, unlike dry eye. A patient can also develop dark circles, which may not be the case for dry eyes.
Dry eye and seasonal allergies have different treatments. Lifestyle changes can reverse dry eye that results from eyestrain. You can blink more, adjust your computer screen brightness, and use a humidifier and eyeglasses to shield your eyes outdoors. Your eye doctor can treat your meibomian glands if their dysfunction is the cause of the condition.
Seasonal allergy treatment entails countering the release of histamine by using antihistamine cell stabilizers. Cold compresses and artificial lubricants can also reduce the swellings you may have. Avoiding allergens will help prevent eye allergies.
For more about dry eyes and seasonal allergies, visit Dry Eye Center of Alabama and Family Eye Care at our office in Homewood, Alabama. Call (205) 490-2322 to book an appointment today.