How Do You Know if You Have Dry Eyes or Allergies?

Dry eye and eye allergies can be difficult to tell apart because they have similar symptoms. For example, if you have some irritation, scratchiness, or a burning sensation after a day’s work, you could label it is as dry eye. But, is it?


Read on to learn the differences between dry eye and eye allergies.



What Is Dry Eye?


Dry eye is a condition that causes the surface of your eye to dry up due to a lack of moisture and lubrication. It occurs when your eye glands fail to produce enough tears or when the tears are imbalanced.


Tears can be inadequate if the glands on your eyelids clog, a condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). The Meibomian glands are the producers of the oil layer of your tears. So, if the glands are dysfunctional, your eyes cannot get proper lubrication. The majority of dry eye patients have MGD, which means that they must have the MGD treated first to address the dry eye. The treatment restores the supply and proper balance of the tears.


The common symptoms of dry eye disease are light sensitivity, dryness, and feeling like there’s a foreign body in your eyes. Your vision also fluctuates, and your eyes water as a reaction to the dryness you are experiencing.



What Are Eye Allergies?


Eye allergies, also called allergic conjunctivitis, are your eyes’ reaction to allergens like pet dander and pollen. Once irritated, your eyes produce histamine, which causes the eyes to redden, itch, or tear. You also have dark circles under your eyes, sensitivity to light, and tears that constantly well up. The allergic reaction also causes the skin beneath and around your eyes to swell.



Dry Eye vs. Eye Allergies


The primary way to distinguish eye allergies from dry eye is the amount of itch. With eye allergies, the eyes become very itchy and have a burning sensation. When you rub them, they become red, watery, and swell up. So, if your eyes are not itchy or the itch is very slight, you could have dry eye. But, if you can’t stop rubbing them, you may have an eye allergy.


You could also distinguish eye allergies from dry eye by tearing. Allergic reactions cause excessive constant tearing. Dry eye does not cause too much tearing because tear production is limited in the first place. Even if the eyes tear with dry eye, the tears are not as many as those produced when you have an allergic reaction.


The third distinguishing factor is eye swelling. Unlike dry eye, allergies cause swelling and puffiness. You also develop dark circles that are not present with dry eye.





The treatment for dry eye and seasonal eye allergies is different. Typically, you could reverse dry eye caused by eyestrain with lifestyle changes. Blink more, get a humidifier, shield your eyes with glasses, and adjust your screens’ brightness. If MGD caused the dry eye, the eye doctor treats the Meibomian glands so that tear production can resume.


Eye allergy treatment involves the use of antihistamine cell stabilizers to counter the release of histamine. You may also get artificial lubricants and cold compresses to bring down the swelling. If possible, avoid allergens.


Dry eye is often confused for seasonal eye allergies and vice versa. The description above should help you distinguish between the two. But, if still in doubt or looking for treatment, visit the Advanced Vision Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can also call us at 702-819-9800 to request an appointment.

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