Why Allergy Season is Worse If You Have Dry Eyes

Do you have seasonal allergies and dry eyes? On their own, these conditions can be uncomfortable to deal with. 

When you have both, increased symptoms can be downright frustrating and get in the way of your everyday life. For many, warmer weather means itchy, red, and watery eyes. 

When you already have dry eyes, these symptoms can become worse. Keep reading to learn why allergy season may worsen your symptoms if you have dry eyes!

What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that affects more than 16 million Americans. It occurs when your eyes lack moisture due to your tears failing to provide adequate lubrication. 

When you blink, a layer of tears called the tear film coats the surface of your eye. The tear film is essential to your vision, as it provides moisture to the cornea, allowing it to be transparent. 

Tears also protect your eye from irritants, such as pollen and dust. When a foreign body enters the eye, your tears can flush it out, so it doesn’t lead to an infection. 

Eyes can lack moisture for a few different reasons. The quality of tears produced by the body may be too low, or the body may not produce enough tears.

Either way, the resulting dryness can make your eyes feel uncomfortable. Dry eye can be chronic, or symptoms may only appear in certain situations. 

For example, sitting in front of an air conditioner or taking a walk on a windy day can dry out your eyes and trigger irritation. 

How Do Allergy Symptoms Compare to Dry Eye Symptoms?

It can be tricky to identify whether allergies or dry eye are the cause of your symptoms. They share some similarities, but there are some key differences. 

It’s important to identify the cause of your symptoms so you can treat them appropriately and start feeling better. If you are treating your eyes for dry eye, but allergies are really to blame, you will not have the best outcome. 

Dry Eye Syndrome

The most prominent symptom associated with dry eye is a gritty, stinging, or burning sensation. Many patients say it feels as if there is something in their eye, such as dirt or sand. 

Other dry eye symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stringy mucus around your eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies can affect your body in a variety of ways. When it comes to your eyes, though, the biggest symptom is often intense itchiness. 

Other seasonal allergy symptoms include:

  • Eye redness
  • Itchy nose and throat
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue

Similarities and Differences

There is some overlap between symptoms, with eye irritation as a potential symptom for both. The type of irritation you experience can differ, however.

When you have allergies, the itching is more intense. However, when you have dry eyes, the feeling is more scratchy, as if something is trapped in your eye. In addition, going beyond your eyes, symptoms like congestion, coughing, and post-nasal drip can be indicative of allergies. 

Next time you are experiencing any of these ocular symptoms and unsure whether allergies or dryness are causing them, ask yourself if one of your biggest complaints is itchiness. If the answer is yes, it’s probably allergies. 

The best way to tell for sure what is causing your symptoms, is to visit your eye doctor for a complete exam. During this visit, your eye doctor will perform a series of tests to determine the root cause of your symptoms, and then they will be able to develop a treatment plan to improve your symptoms. 

How Do Allergies Worsen Dry Eye Symptoms?

In the spring, summer, and fall, pollen and other allergens fill the air. For some people, this is no issue. 

However, this can present a problem for the 50 million Americans with allergies. When you have allergies, your body has a heightened response to certain particles that are generally harmless. 

Your immune system overreacts and treats them as a threat. It then produces antibodies that lead to an allergic reaction. 

Pollen, ragweed, and mold are some common allergens. Allergies can exacerbate your dry eye symptoms. 

When your eyes are already dry, you can feel even worse with allergies added on top of those symptoms. In addition to feeling a scratchy, stringing, or burning sensation in your eyes, they may also be itchy. 

Eye itchiness can make you want to rub your eyes. Not only does this further irritate your eye, but it can also introduce more allergens transferred from your hands to your eyes.

 It’s all too easy for this to result in an endless cycle. 

Contact Lenses

Wearing contact lenses can also be a source of further irritation. When you wear contacts, you touch your eyes at multiple points, whether you’re putting them in, taking them out, or adjusting them throughout the day. 

These are all opportunities to get more pollen into your eyes. One way to avoid introducing more allergens into your eye is to get LASIK. 

Many people find that their allergy symptoms actually improve with LASIK, because they no longer have to touch their eyes. If you are interested in learning if you are a candidate for LASIK, schedule a LASIK consultation.

Dry Eye and Allergy Treatment

Depending on the root cause of your symptoms, your eye doctor may recommend increasing your use of artificial tears. Besides artificial tears, there are some ways to try to improve your symptoms at home.

However, if you’re experiencing these issues, it’s best to visit your eye doctor for a proper diagnosis. 

Are you suffering from eye irritation that won’t go away, no matter the season? Schedule an appointment at Eye Associates of Tallahassee in Tallahassee, FL, today!

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