There are many different conditions that can affect our eyes and it probably comes as no surprise to know what many of them share similar symptoms. This can sometimes make it difficult to determine which issue is affecting us and, more importantly, what treatments will help to overcome the symptoms that are affecting our day-to-day lives. Two of the eye conditions that are most confused are dry eye and eye allergies.
So, how do you know which you have? Obviously, the best thing to do is to consult with your eye doctor who will be able to assess your eyes and symptoms and confirm an accurate diagnosis, before putting you on the most suitable treatment to alleviate the indicators you are experiencing. However, in the meantime, let’s get a better understanding of both conditions and how they may affect your eyes and vision.
Most people will experience dry eye at some point during their lifetime. Also known as dry eye syndrome, it occurs when the tear film your eyes produce is poor quality, tear film production is decreased or because your tear film drains from your eyes too quickly. In either case, the eyes don’t have the lubrication that they need to keep them healthy and comfortable.
Although dry eye syndrome can affect anyone, there are some factors that make it more likely, including being over the age of 50, spending a lot of time in dry, dusty or windy environments and wearing contact lenses. You are also more likely to develop dry eye if you suffer from specific health conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome or an autoimmune disorder, or if you take medications where dry eye is listed as a side effect, including some antihistamines and antidepressants.
There are various symptoms associated with dry eye, including:
Stiffness and eyes that feel dry and dehydrated
Irritation and feeling as though there is a foreign object in your eye
Infrequent, sudden flooding of tears
The last symptom is the body’s emergency response to a lack of tear film, but the flooding usually contains poor quality tear film that doesn’t actually help relieve your symptoms.
Eye allergies a little different to dry eye. That’s because they are caused by your eyes coming into contact with a specific substance that your body perceives to be harmful. Different people have different allergy triggers, but most eye allergies are seasonal, meaning that they get worse at certain times of the year. This is because the allergen causing them is most prevalent at that time. For example, spring causes excessive amounts of grass and flower pollen to be released into the air. If you are allergic to these pollens, your allergy symptoms will be much worse at this time.
There are many different allergy triggers, but the most common include pollen, dust, mold, ragweed, smoke and pet dander. Allergies also run in the family, so if you have a parent or grandparent with a specific allergy, you may be more likely to have it too.
Although eye allergies present with many of the same symptoms as dry eye, they are also usually accompanied by a few others, including:
A runny nose
Red, swollen eyes
Occasionally, eye allergies can also cause conjunctivitis, better known as pink eye. This usually doesn’t require any treatment unless the infection becomes bacterial, in which case antibiotics may be needed.
Exactly what treatment you will need for your symptoms will depend on whether they are caused by dry eye or eye allergies. The good news is that our experienced and knowledgeable eyecare team will be able to help you to find the best treatment to help your eyes feel healthy, comfortable and normal again. Visit West Texas Eyecare at our office in Fort Stockton, Texas. You can call (432) 336-3662 today to schedule an appointment.