Did you know that almost 20% of all Americans suffer from some form of allergies? Each person experiences these allergies differently. While some people suffer from them constantly throughout the year, others may suffer from them only in a certain season, and still others only on occasion. One common symptom of an allergic reaction is dry eye syndrome. This can be deeply uncomfortable, distracting, and even potentially harmful in extreme cases.
But what is dry eye syndrome, exactly? And how is it caused by allergies? Is there a way to prevent or treat the causes of dry eyes and allergies? Fortunately, our eye eye care team at can answer all of these questions and more!
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Tears are an essential part of keeping your eyes healthy and comfortable. A healthy tear film will effectively keep the surface of your eye clean, hydrated, and free of debris or infection. Unfortunately, when you have chronic dry eye, your eyes are either unable to produce enough tears, or aren’t able to produce tears with the right elements to keep your eyes hydrated, comfortable and healthy.
Common symptoms of dry eye include:
- Oversensitivity to light
- Blurry or double vision
- Burning or scratchy eyes
- Watery eyes
Dry eyes can sometimes occur temporarily for a number of reasons. It could happen because you haven’t gotten enough sleep, live in or are visiting a dry environment, or you haven’t had enough water lately. In other cases, such as with constant allergies, more chronic dry eye can cause long-term eye health and vision issues, including infections and scarring of the clear front part of the eye, called the cornea.
Allergies and Dry Eye Symptoms
Though eye allergies can sometimes be caused by the allergens directly touching the eye, they are often part of a full-body immune response, or an allergic reaction within the tissues of the face. For instance, allergies often affect the hollow spaces of the face, called the sinuses, found above, between, behind, and below the eyes. When these are infected or inflamed as a result of an allergic reaction, it can often bring on dry eye symptoms. If you experience these symptoms often, we recommend visiting our eye care clinic to determine the best treatement options for you.
Even if your allergies aren’t the direct cause of your dry eye symptoms, it may still be possible to suffer side effects from medication you’re taking to treat other allergy symptoms. Specifically, antihistamines have been known to worsen dry eye symptoms, by causing the eyes to produce less tears.
Our dry eye team can check to see if this is the root of your symptoms. If we determine that it is, we may recommend changing the dosage of your medication or trying a different one altogether.
Preventing Dry Eye Symptoms and Allergies
Different people are allergic to different things. Depending on your specific allergies, our eye doctors can offer a number of tips to help prevent or treat dry eye symptoms related to allergies. These include:
- Washing your hands when returning from outdoors, or touching pets. This will prevent introduction of these allergens directly to your eye when you rub them.
- Wearing sunglasses anytime you go outside to keep dust and pollen from getting into your eyes.
- Keeping the windows closed at work or at home when pollen counts are high.
- Using an air purifier at home or work to reduce allergens indoors.
Artificial tears and eye drops are another effective way to minimize dry eye symptoms and wash allergens and irritants out of the eye. However, many eye drops contain preservatives, which can cause further allergic reactions and dry eye in some patients. That’s why it’s important to consult your eye doctor about which eye drops or artificial tears would be best for you to use. We can recommend which eye drops may benefit you the most or suggest effective alternatives.
Are There Other Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome?
If you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms, it’s important to keep in mind that, though your dry eyes can be a symptom of allergies, they may also come from a separate issue entirely. Some common causes include your age, side effects from certain medications, or systemic illnesses. Regular eye exams are important to assess your eye health and diagnose the cause of dry eye symptoms, so that the proper treatment can be found.
For more information on eye allergies and dry eye syndrome, come visit our eye care clinic, or give us a call at .