When it’s allergy season, every sneeze, eye irritation, or cough seems suspicious. What if we told you that some of these symptoms might not be related to seasonal allergies at all?
Seasonal allergies or hay fever-like to mimic other conditions such as the common cold and, in our field, dry eye disease.
Today, before you reach over the counter for Claritin or Zyrtec, we’ll help you identify what’s what.
What are allergies? When your immune system comes in contact with allergens or foreign substances—such as pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander---your body has a visceral response. The body releases histamine (note: allergy medications are marked as being antihistamine), a chemical that triggers you to cough, sneeze, or exhibit other types of allergic symptoms.
With a comprehensive history and diagnostic tests, such as skin prick tests and blood tests, your doctor can help you confirm what you may be allergic to.
Some allergies can be managed by taking antihistamines, making lifestyle changes, and with a more aggressive approach, such as receiving allergy shots.
Now, when it comes to dry eyes, there’s a significant change in the surface of the eyes due to the lack or quality of tear production used to lubricate the eyes. Tears help prevent bacterial infections in the eyes.
Lack of eye lubrication can lead to watery eyes, redness, burning sensations, and itchy eyes. Chronic dry eye disease has no cure and can be caused by advanced age, contact lens use, certain medications, eye diseases, environmental factors, and other medical conditions.
There are two types of chronic dry eye disease:
There are several health conditions associated with dry eyes, including Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
Chronic dry eye disease can be diagnosed by your eye doctor or dry eye specialist using advanced technology and vital dyes to measure the volume of your tears, oil gland structure, and inflammation.
Some treatment for lack of tear production includes artificial tears, which helps your eyes retain moisture. Also, your dry eye specialist may prescribe eye drops from a class of medications called cholinergics, which helps to stimulate tear production.
For extreme cases of dry eyes, your dry eye specialist may recommend surgery to plug the drainage holes at the inner corners to help prevent tears loss. There are also noninvasive procedures to help correct dry eyes as well.
Both eye allergies and dry eyes are lifestyle-altering conditions, however, there's a huge difference between the two. According to Healthline, intense eye itching is more associated with eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis than dry eyes. Also, eye allergies can lead to dry eyes—the inverse is less common.
If you go to a dry eye specialist, prepare to complete a comprehensive history to determine what may be causing your eye symptoms.
Self-misdiagnosing dry eyes for allergies is preventing you from getting the care you need to address this very manageable condition.