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How to Tell the Difference Between Allergies & Dry Eye

Mar 1, 2024 | Dry Eye, Eye Health Info

Are your eyes constantly itching and burning? Do you feel the urge to frequently rub them throughout the day? If you’re dealing with these symptoms, you may chalk it up to allergies, but there’s another possible explanation: dry eye. Often, people mistake dry eye for allergies because the two have similar symptoms. Understanding the differences is crucial to making sure you get the right treatment.  

Understanding eye allergies 

Eye allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to harmless substances. Many triggers, from pollen and dust mites to pet dander and certain foods and medications, can set off an allergic reaction. Symptoms may include puffiness, itchy and red eyes, a burning sensation, blurred vision, excessive tearing, and sensitivity to light. If you have eye allergies, your doctor may suggest oral antihistamines, eye drops, allergen avoidance, or even allergy shots. 

Understanding dry eye 

Conversely, dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or the right type of tears to keep your eyes lubricated and healthy. This can make your eyes irritated and inflamed, leading to a range of symptoms like stinging, a gritty sensation, itchiness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and even watery eyes. Various factors can contribute to dry eye, including certain medications, hormonal changes, aging, and medical conditions like thyroid disorders.  

While there is no cure for dry eye, treatment can help manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Dry eye treatment may involve using over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, making lifestyle changes like using a humidifier, or seeing an eye doctor for light therapy.  

Distinguishing between the two 

One of the main differences between these two conditions is the severity of itching. While your eyes might itch with dry eye, allergies are more likely to cause intense itching. You may also have allergies if you experience itchy eyes along with sneezing and a runny nose. Additionally, only allergies will cause puffiness and swelling of the eyes.  

Dry eye also tends to cause a variety of symptoms. In addition to itching, people with dry eye may experience a gritty feeling in the eyes (like you have sand in your eyes), burning, and redness. Both dry eye and allergies can cause watery eyes, but it’s much more prevalent with allergies.  

It’s also important to pay attention to when your discomfort occurs and what might trigger it. Allergies often flare up during specific seasons or follow a pattern, especially if you’re allergic to pollen or pets. Dry eye, on the other hand, might occur after staring at screens for too long or spending time in dry, windy environments. 

Seek professional help 

Both dry eye and allergies can cause uncomfortable symptoms that interfere with your quality of life, so it’s important to see an eye doctor to get the right diagnosis. It’s also possible to suffer from both conditions, which can make it even more challenging to find relief.  

Our eye doctors in Gonzales, LA have the expertise and advanced equipment to diagnose your condition and help you find long-term relief. If you’re diagnosed with dry eye, allergies, or a combination of both, we will provide expert advice on managing your dry eye or avoiding allergy triggers. Book an appointment if you are experiencing any symptoms of dry eye or eye allergies.