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Dry Eyes vs. Allergies: Similarities and Differences By Daniel J Tepper on September 30, 2018

A woman with irritated eyesThere’s nothing more annoying than a dry eye attack. It can occur without warning and ruin your day if you can’t get your hands on artificial tears for relief. The thing we’ve noticed at our Chicago, IL practice is that many patients mistake dry eye for eye allergies. While dry eye treatment is an effective form of relief, it’s not designed to address the specific needs of people who suffer from eye allergies. These conditions should not be confused.

Dr. Daniel Tepper and the Wicker Park Eye Center team would like to consider the differences between dry eye and eye allergies. We’ll then note symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment differences.

About Dry Eye

Dry eye occurs when the eyes do not have sufficient moisture. This is often due to problems with tear composition. Tears are composed of water, oil, and mucus. When the proportions are off, it’s possible for tears to evaporate quickly or not remain in place.

Other contributing factors to dry eye include dehydration, the natural aging process, reduced tear production, eye surgery, and dry environments. Around 11 to 22 percent of the population experiences dry eye.

About Eye Allergies

Eye allergies are an ocular reaction that occurs when exposed to a substance that usually isn’t harmful. This substance is an allergen. When the allergen contacts the eye, it results in the release of histamines, causing itchiness, redness, and swelling.

Potential causes of eye allergies include pollen, animal dander, dust, mold, and so forth.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

The most common symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Gritty feeling in the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Burning eyes
  • Stinging eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eye
  • Eye pain
  • Excessive watering of the eyes

Symptoms of Eye Allergies

The symptoms of eye allergies include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning eyes
  • Stinging eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eye
  • Excessive watering of the eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Light sensitivity

Given some of the shared symptoms of these conditions, you can perhaps see how they can be confused with one another.

Diagnosing Dry Eye

When diagnosing dry eye, doctors will typically analyze a patient’s tear composition, tears production, and medical history. A combination of advanced diagnostics and discussion of medical history will be crucial in properly determining if the patient suffers from dry eye and its exact cause.

Diagnosing Eye Allergies

As with diagnosis of dry eye, patients will have an eye exam performed, with a focus on what triggers eye irritation. If patients notice specific environmental triggers or seasonal differences in eye irritation, these can help determine if the patient suffers from an eye allergy rather than dry eye.

Treatments for Dry Eye

The ideal initial treatment for dry eye is for patients to carry lubricating eye drops with them wherever they go. These eye drops will help increase moisture in the eyes and provide relief from bouts of serious dry eye. Punctal plugs may also be considered to help prevent natural and artificial tears from draining out too soon. More advanced procedures will be recommended if these treatments prove ineffective.

Treatments for Eye Allergies

To treat eye allergies, patients will usually be advised to take antihistamines when their eyes become irritated, and to use lubricating eye drops to help flush out allergens during an allergy attack. Patients might also be advised to avoid common triggers f eye allergies when possible. If these treatments prove ineffective, more advanced therapies may be considered to relieve eye discomfort during allergy attacks.

Contact Wicker Park Eye Center

For more information about treating dry eye, eye allergies, and other vision issues, be sure to contact an experienced eye doctor and vision specialist. The Wicker Park Eye Center team is here to help. You can reach our offices by phone at (773) 453-2437.

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Wicker Park Eye Center

At Wicker Park Eye Center in Chicago, IL, Dr. Daniel J. Tepper, a board-certified ophthalmologist and Parisha Shah, fellowship-trained optometrists, provide patient-centric eye care. Our affiliations include:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)
  • American Medical Association (AMA)
  • American Optometric Association (AOA)

To schedule an appointment at our eye clinic, please contact us online or call (773) 376-2020.

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"I have visited Wicker Eye Park Center a few times, with each visit I have received excellent service. Dr. Tepper is the best ophthalmologist that I have seen in many years. He, like his staff, is also courteous respectful and very professional." Juan B.

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