Dry Eye vs. Eye Allergies By Monterey County Eye Associates on October 18, 2021

red eyeMany individuals experience occasional eye discomfort, including red, dry, itchy, or watery eyes. Oftentimes people attribute symptoms like these to eye allergies, but sometimes dry eye is responsible for eye irritation. Dry eye causes many of the same symptoms as eye allergies, but its causes are completely different.

Ophthalmologists at Monterey County Eye Associates help individuals in Monterey, CA, Salinas, King City, and surrounding areas distinguish between dry eye vs. eye allergies, so that they can appropriately treat the condition and provide patients with relief from symptoms.

Dry Eye Causes and Symptoms

Dry eye is a condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce sufficient tears, or when the tears that are produced are of low quality. In either case, the eyes are left without the moist layer of protection that is vital for eye health and functions.

Dry eye can be caused by a number of different factors. Sometimes dry eye is related to underlying health conditions, such as thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Other times dry eye is linked to hormonal changes, dehydration, or lifestyle choices, such as smoking or excessive screen time.

It is easy to confuse dry eye with eye allergies, because they do share many of the same symptoms, including redness, a burning sensation, and sensitivity to light. However, dry eye also has some unique symptoms, such as:

  • the feeling that something is stuck in the eye
  • eye fatigue
  • blurry vision

Eye Allergy Causes and Symptoms

Eye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, is a condition that causes the eyes to feel red, itchy, and irritated. Eye allergies occur when someone comes into contact with a substance that they are allergic to. Often eye allergies are seasonal, and can be set off by grass or pollen in the air. The body reacts to allergens by producing histamines. As histamines are released, people experience the symptoms that are known as allergies. Again, eye allergies and dry eye share similar symptoms, but some unique symptoms of eye allergies include:

  • itchiness
  • watery eyes
  • swelling around the eyes or eyelids
  • under-eye circles

Treating Dry Eye vs. Eye Allergies

It is important to diagnose the correct condition since they are treated differently. Eye allergies are often treated with oral antihistamines or antihistamine eye drops. Antihistamines block the production of histamines to prevent the symptoms commonly associated with allergies. Antihistamines are very effective at treating eye allergies, but if they are used by someone suffering from dry eye, they can actually make dry eye symptoms worse.

To treat dry eye individuals should use lubricating eye drops, or artificial tears, that are free of preservatives. This type of drop restores moisture to the eyes instead of drying them out the way antihistamines can. If dry eye is severe people may also require prescription-strength eye drops.

Get in Touch

If you are experiencing dry eyes or eye irritation, the ophthalmologists at Monterey County Eye Associates can diagnose your condition and create an effective treatment plan. To discuss your symptoms with our doctors, contact our practice online, or call (831) 424-1150 to schedule an appointment.

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The team of doctors at Monterey County Eye Associates

Monterey County Eye Associates
Leland H. Rosenblum, MD - MBEC
Eric J. Del Piero, MD

Our team of ophthalmologists provides state-of-the-art eye care using the latest technology. They are proud to be affiliated with: 

  • AAO: American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • ABO: American Board of Ophthalmology

To schedule an appointment, please call us at one of our four ophthalmologist office locations in Monterey, Ryan Ranch, Salinas, and King City, or contact us online.

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