Am I Experiencing Dry Eye or Eye Allergies?

April 29, 2020 — by Thomas Byrd, MD
Tags: Dry Eye Eye Allergies Eye Drops Punctal Plugs

Woman rubs her right eye with her right hand while her eyes are closedComprehensive eye care allows Dr. Thomas Byrd to treat most eye conditions before they cause complications or vision loss. Dr. Byrd can design a custom treatment plan to improve your quality of life.

Two eye problems that can have similar symptoms are dry eye and eye allergies. If your eyes are red, itchy, or irritated, Dr. Byrd can treat the root of the problem at his Detroit, MI, eye care center. Byrd Eye Clinic also serves Dearborn Heights, MI, and Lincoln Park, MI.

Dry Eye vs. Eye Allergies: Know the Difference

Two of the most common causes of eye irritation are dry eye and eye allergies (ocular allergies). If you wear contacts, either condition can make wearing contact lenses difficult. During your visit to Byrd Eye Center, Dr. Byrd will diagnose the cause of your eye irritation. Some of our patients experience dry eye and eye allergies simultaneously.

Dry Eye

Tears are a mix of protein, water, and lipids. The clear liquid keeps your eyes moisturized and healthy. Dry eye symptoms can result from inadequate production of tears or too much evaporation or drainage through tear ducts.

Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Scratchy eyes
  • Stringy mucus formations around the eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Difficulty driving at night

Dry eye symptoms can also result from medications or environmental conditions like dry air.

Eye Allergies

Eye allergies can cause symptoms that are similar to dry eyes, but the main symptom of eye allergies is itchy eyes. Eye allergies do not result from impairment of tear production or drainage. The condition results from the interaction of an allergen and the eye. A special type of cells found in ocular tissue releases a substance called histamine that causes itching, redness, and scratchiness.

Allergies are often the result of seasonal pollen releases from plants and trees. Other common sources of allergies include dust mites, pet dander, and certain synthetic chemicals.

What Are My Treatment Options?

Dr. Byrd often treats dry eye by prescribing Restasis® eye drops. The prescription drops help your eyes produce more tears. If prescription drops are ineffective, Dr. Byrd can place punctal plugs to slow tear drainage and increase moisture.

Eye allergy symptoms can be addressed through multiple means. Certain changes in behavior, like keeping your windows closed during pollen season or buying mite-proof bed sheets, can reduce the presence of allergens in your house.

Artificial tears and oral antihistamines can also reduce eye allergy symptoms. The best long-term solution is to identify which allergens are the root cause of your itchy eyes. An allergist can perform tests to see what type of irritant is causing your allergic reactions. Allergy shots or other forms of immunotherapy can then lower your body’s response to that allergen.  

Schedule Your Examination Today

Red or itchy eyes are more than a nuisance. Any reduction in the quality of your tear film can leave your eyes at greater risk for corneal abrasion and infection. To schedule your evaluation and learn more about your treatment options, please contact our office online or call (313) 383-1300.

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