March is finally here, and seasonal allergies are ready to “spring” upon us! For many, March also marks the beginning of allergy season. This can be a challenging time for adults and kids of all ages, especially those who suffer from eye allergies and dry eye. Since dry eye syndrome and seasonal allergies are two of the most common conditions that can affect our eyes, it may be difficult to distinguish between them, especially in the spring. Both conditions may also affect the eyes simultaneously, leaving you to wonder if your red, watery eyes are due to seasonal eye allergies or dry eye.
Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, can cause mild or severe symptoms including redness, itching, watering, and swelling of the eyes. Dry Eye disease generally has two primary causes. Your eyes may not produce enough tears, or you may have a condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (or MGD), where the glands in the eyelids become clogged or have issues producing the oil component of tears, causing the eyes to dry out. Common symptoms of dry eye disease may include sensitivity to light, dryness and itchiness, the feeling of a foreign body in the eye, fluctuating vision, eye fatigue, and excess watering. The biggest difference between seasonal allergies and dry eye is itchiness. When the eye is sensitive to an allergen such as pollen or pet dander, histamine is released, causing the eyes to itch, tear, and redden. Additionally, allergies are often accompanied by sneezing, runny nose, or other cold-like symptoms.
Treatments can vary widely, depending on which condition is affecting your eyes. For seasonal eye allergies, an antihistamine can often be quite effective. We also suggest these for helping to combat eye allergy symptoms:
In addition to these treatments, there are several other steps you can take to reduce your exposure to allergens and prevent eye allergies. Keeping your home clean and free of dust and pet dander by vacuuming and dusting regularly can minimize airborne allergens. Using air purifiers and HEPA filters on your home HVAC system can help remove allergens from the air. When you go outside, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen and other allergens. And if you have pets, bathe them regularly to reduce dander.
The best treatment options for dry eye syndrome vary from case to case and can range from prescription eye drops to advanced therapies that treat MGD. Our practice offers a comprehensive examination and treatment program for dry eye syndrome. Whether you’re suffering from eye allergies or dry eye, our team of eye care professionals will examine your eyes, determine the cause of your symptoms, and recommend a treatment that can best meet your unique needs. With the right care, you can manage your eye allergies and enjoy a beautiful spring season, so call us to schedule your appointment today!