Dry Eye and Allergies: Know the Difference

There are many different issues and problems that can affect our eyes. Unfortunately, many of them share the same symptoms, which can make it difficult to tell which condition you are affected by and which treatment you need. Two eye problems that cause symptoms that are extremely alike are dry eye and eye allergies. So, how do you tell the difference between them? Let’s find out!

What are Allergies and What Causes Them?

Seasonal allergies are allergies that occur at certain times of the year. The reason for this is that the allergens that cause them are particularly prevalent during certain months. For example, high levels of flower pollen allergens are found in spring and summer. However, some people suffer from allergies that affect their eyes all year round. For example, if you are allergic to tobacco smoke, exposure to it will trigger an allergy response from your body, regardless of where you are and what season it is.


Allergies occur when your body comes into contact with a substance that it perceives as potentially dangerous (even though it is actually harmless). When it does, it releases histamines – a chemical that protects the body against perceived danger. However, the histamines also cause a range of other effects, including itching, swelling, excessive watering of the eyes and other symptoms associated with having an allergic reaction that affects the eyes.


Eye allergies can be triggered by a huge range of different things. Some of the most common causes of eye allergies include:


  • Dust

  • Animal dander

  • Pollen (grass, tree, or flower)

  • Aerosol sprays

  • Eye cosmetics such as mascara or eyeliner


Understanding what triggers your allergies can be crucial in minimizing your exposure to them in the future and as a result, limiting your symptoms.

What is Dry Eye and What Causes it?

Dry eye is a condition with the main symptoms of the same name. It is caused by problems with your tear film - either the tears ducts aren’t able to produce enough good quality tears, which makes them less effective at keeping your eyes lubricated, or your tear film drains too quickly.


The tear film is essential for eye health too since it helps to flush out dust, dirt, and other harmful particles, as well as protect your eyes from the risk of infection. If your body isn’t making tear film properly, you are more likely to experience symptoms including itchiness, grittiness, general irritation or the sensation that there is something in your eye, sensitivity to light, redness, and even blurred vision. These are many of the same symptoms that are also associated with eye allergies.

What Treatment Do I Need?

The treatment that your eye doctor will recommend will depend on the underlying cause of your symptoms.


If you have dry eye, your treatment will be focused on removing inflammation and blockages in your tear ducts that are causing your dry eye symptoms. There is a range of options for this, including eye drops, oral anti-inflammatories, warm compresses, antibiotics, and massage. Alternatively, if your eye doctor believes that your dry eye is caused by your tear film draining too quickly, you may be recommended to undergo a minor procedure to insert plugs into the drainage channels and keep tear film on the surface of the eyes for longer.


If your symptoms are believed to be caused by allergies, the first thing that your eye doctor will recommend is to limit or eliminate your exposure to the allergen. You’ll also be prescribed antihistamines to help minimize the symptoms of your allergic reaction. These come in a range of forms, from eyedrops to medication that is taken orally. In severe instances, drugs to suppress your immune system may be recommended, but this is quite rare.




If you would like more information about the difference between dry eye and allergies, visit Trinity Eye Care in Plano, TX. Call (972) 895-9260 to schedule an appointment today.