September 16, 2021
The Pacific Northwest has been hit hard again this year with everything from wildfires to residential burns. All the dry weather and a smoke cover in the air can cause increased dry eyes and allergies. Dry eyes and seasonal allergies can both make your eyes itchy and sore, making it hard to tell the difference between the two. So, how can you tell for sure whether the stinging and itchiness are the symptoms of dry eyes or seasonal allergies?
Dry eye disease is a common eye condition that affects many people. It happens when your eyes do not have enough tears for lubrication. Tears can be insufficient and unbalanced for various reasons, including not making enough tears or poor-quality tears that dissipate too quickly.
Situations that may cause dry eye syndrome include certain medications and health conditions, post eye surgeries, and age.
Symptoms of Dry Eyes
Dry eyes can be uncomfortable, causing you to have the following symptoms:
- Scratchy, burning, or stinging
- Watery eyes (the body’s natural reaction to the irritation of dry eye syndrome)
- A gritty or sandy feeling in your eye
- Eye soreness or fatigue
- Light sensitivity
- Blurry vision
- Trouble wearing contacts
Seasonal eye allergies, also called allergic conjunctivitis, happen when your body reacts to something you are allergic to. Your immune system creates antibodies that make your eyes produce histamine and other chemicals. This causes your eyes to feel itchy, sore, and watery.
Environmental factors you could be allergic to include pollen from weeds, trees and grasses, dust mites, mold, smoke, pet dander, perfumes, and fragrances, or contact lens solution.
Contacts trap the allergens to the surface of the eye, and they can also build up on the surface of the lens if not properly cleaned. Secondly, contact lens solutions contain preservatives that can cause allergic reactions. So, if you wear contacts, talk with your doctor to ensure you have the proper cleaning solution, contact fit, and eye drops needed for comfortable wear.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Symptoms of seasonal allergies may start to appear the moment your eyes meet the allergen or up to four days later.
The symptoms to observe include:
- Itchiness (classic symptom)
- Constant redness
- Puffy eyelids
- Sore, painful, or burning sensation
- Watery or teary eyes
- Light sensitivity
Through an eye exam or dry eye consultation, Dr. Day can determine which condition is affecting your eyes. He will prescribe treatments depending on your diagnosis, which could include over-the-counter eye drops, prescription steroids or topical medications, and/or in-office procedures.
When to See Your Doctor
While dry eyes and seasonal allergies are common eye conditions, they are frequently aggravating to daily routines and disrupt an otherwise happy life.
Always see your eye doctor immediately if discomfort persists or you experience vision changes as these could be signs of a more serious infection.
For more information on the difference between the symptoms of dry eyes and seasonal allergies, call East Main Vision Clinic in Puyallup, Washington at 253-780-0700.