Allergies or Dry Eye?

It is almost a no-win situation.   During the cold months, allergies flare up due to changes in the way we live. We live in homes that are sealed to trap heat in the winter and cool conditioned air in the summer. We have wall-to-wall carpeting and throw rugs on our floors. This comfortable and energy-conscious approach creates an environment in which dust mites thrive. There is less fresh air from outside being exchanged with stale air indoors, which means that dust builds up inside. Carpeting may be comfortable to walk on, insulating, and attractive, but stuff that settles in it is fodder for dust mites, and their waste is highly allergenic.

Then add the warm weather and the allergens associated with grass, trees, pollen, etc., and this turns into millions of people suffering withcongestion, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and difficulty breathing all year long.   Individuals with allergies often suffer from eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis resulting in red, watery, itchy and sometimes swollen eyes. Just as irritants cause an allergic response in your nasal and respiratory system, your eyes also react with an oversensitive immune response.   Particularly seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is common during the spring, summer and fall.

If your eyes itch, are red, tearing or burning, pay attention to what they may be telling you. You may have eye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, a condition that affects millions of Americans. It is a condition that can occur alone, but often accompanies nasal allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, sniffling and a stuffy nose. And, while most people treat nasal allergy symptoms, they often ignore their itchy, red, watery eyes.

Then comes the question, are allergies causing my itching, burning, tearing eyes?  Or is dry eye syndrome an underlying component?  Dry eye syndrome can be caused by many things, however, medications used to treat our runny nose and congestion can be the root cause of dry eye. Antihistamines do a great job of drying out our body and relieving our body of nasal congestion and sinus headaches; however, it can also dry out our eye, causing a problem on top of a problem. One way to help negate this, is to use artificial tears. This can help provide some relief during the times of allergy seasons.

Another cause of allergic conjunctivitis is dry eye. If the eye is dry to begin with, it may be difficult for the eye to rinse itself of allergens that may settle into the eye, creating a cascade effect of tearing, itching, and burning. The use of artificial tears may help to relieve these symptoms. If they do not, a further evaluation with a dry eye specialist may be needed. At Summit Eye Care, we look forward to determining the underlying cause, treating it, and allowing you to get on with your life. We understand that you do not have time to deal with cumbersome issues and we look to treat it as quickly and efficiently as we can.

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