As the days get warmer and longer, it’s also allergy season. Have you started experiencing dry, itchy eyes?
Do they feel swollen or watery? The trouble with having dry eyes during allergy season is it can be challenging to figure out what’s causing your symptoms.
Dry eyes are common; many people with dry eyes may also suffer from dry eye syndrome. During allergy season, anyone with dry eyes can experience more intense symptoms.
However, the cause of dry eyes and dry eye syndrome isn’t seasonal allergies. Experiencing allergic eye symptoms exacerbates already existing symptoms.
Although dry eyes may seem more prevalent when there’s more pollen in the air, you can experience them anytime. Regardless of when you develop dry eye symptoms, you should seek treatment from your eye doctor if they don’t improve.
Proper diagnosis and treatment can alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and make allergy season more manageable. Keep reading to learn more about dry eyes and how to keep them under control during allergy season!
Dry Eye and Allergies
Allergic conjunctivitis, which causes you to experience eye allergy symptoms, is prevalent during the spring. Many people are allergic to tree pollen.
When there’s more of it present in the air, it can cause eyes to feel itchy, irritated, red, and runny. These symptoms may sometimes be confused with dry eye.
It can be especially challenging to tell them apart if you have dry eye and seasonal allergies. But dry eye symptoms are distinct from allergic conjunctivitis.
While dry eyes may feel a little itchy, the primary symptom of dry eye is a burning and gritty feeling in the eyes. Eye allergies won’t cause burning or other symptoms associated with having dry eyes.
If you’re experiencing eye irritation from allergies and have dry eyes, it can worsen both symptoms, especially if you rub your eyes. Both allergic conjunctivitis and dry eye can cause inflammation.
When you rub your eyes, it can make you more prone to further inflammation and even infection. Rubbing your eyes may also lead to getting pollen or other allergens directly in your eye.
But dry eye itself is unrelated to allergies, seasonal or otherwise. Dry eyes can happen for several reasons and can affect anyone at any time of year.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Your eyes need constant moisture to stay healthy. People produce tears for reasons other than crying at sad movies.
Your tears are constantly dispersing over the surface of your eye. Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t produce tears correctly or the tears produced are not good enough quality.
You may not produce enough tears, but more often, the issue is with the composition of your tears. Tears have three layers.
The outer lipid layer has oil your oil glands produce. The middle layer is an aqueous layer, meaning it’s a watery layer. The inner layer is a mucus layer.
Dry eye may be temporary and caused by environmental factors, like your contact lenses or dry weather, sapping the moisture from your eyes. But when you have a deficiency in the parts of your eye that produce tears, it can lead to chronic dry eye or dry eye syndrome.
Often, the cause of dry eye syndrome is meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian glands are the oil glands that produce the outer layer of your tears.
When there isn’t enough oil in the glands, your tears lack this protective layer and evaporate too quickly on the eye’s surface. Various factors can lead to meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye is more common if you’re older or a woman. It’s even more likely due to hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause.
You may also develop dry eye syndrome due to another medical condition or nutritional deficiency. Whatever the cause, the strategy for treatment should be holistic. Your eye doctor should focus on helping your eyes stay moist and produce tears more effectively.
Treatment Options for Dry Eyes
Before you can begin receiving treatment for dry eyes, you need a diagnosis from your eye doctor. Follow their instructions for treatment. They will usually recommend non-invasive home remedies and lifestyle changes. This may include:
- Over-the-counter artificial tears
- Using a humidifier in the home
- Cleaning your eyelids regularly
- A warm, wet compress over the eyes
- Staying hydrated
- Eating certain nutrients and vitamins, especially omega-3 fatty acids
In many cases, these simple changes gradually improve dry eye symptoms. But when these home remedies don’t lead to significant relief, further treatment options exist.
To start, you may be prescribed prescription medication, usually in the form of eye drops that help with tear production. They may also help with reducing inflammation.
There’s also a special light therapy designed to help with meibomian gland dysfunction. The treatment is called LipiFlow.
LipiFlow uses a combination of heat and light to soften the oils in blocked meibomian glands. The therapy is non-invasive and only uses a device that emits light under the eyelids.
In the most severe cases of dry eye syndrome, there’s also a surgical option called punctal occlusion. Punctal occlusion is a minimally-invasive procedure that inserts tiny plugs into the puncta, which are the tear ducts located in the corner of your lower eyelid near your nose.
Tears from your eye naturally drain from these ducts and block them, keeping your tears on the surface of your eye longer. The aim is to compensate for any reduced tear quality.
You may notice dry eye symptoms more when you’re struggling with allergies, but dry eye can happen at any time and can be chronic. To prevent complications and further discomfort during and beyond allergy season, make an appointment today at Herschel LASIK and Cataract Institute in Orlando, FL!