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Do I Have Dry Eye Or Allergies?

It’s that time of year again. During the Fall and Spring, many of us experience itchy, watery red eyes. Others may suffer from burning and a gritty feeling. Wearing contact lenses becomes almost unbearable as we wonder: Do I have dry eye or allergies? The confusion arises as many symptoms from dry eye and allergies are similar and present all year round – not just in Spring or Fall. How do we tell the difference?

Let’s look at the difference between these two conditions and their specifically required treatments.

Dry Eye

Our eyes require sufficient and proper tear film to be comfortable and remain healthy. Tears help to wash away pollen, dirt, debris, pollutants and even help to prevent infections. When we don’t have enough moisture or the proper tear components we can develop dry eye, it can disrupt our tear chemistry and cause damage and inflammation to our ocular surface.

Sometimes our tears evaporate too quickly with the same results.

Risk Factors for Dry Eye

Some common risk factors for dry eye include:

  • Aging and menopause
  • Dry air from air conditioners and heaters
  • Pollution
  • Certain medications like blood pressure, anti-anxiety meds, and pain relievers
  • Wearing contact lenses

If your eyes are burning or stinging, you most likely have dry eye. You may also have a gritty feeling, experience excess watering, redness, a foreign body sensation and blurry vision.

Treatments for Dry Eye

Some common dry eye treatments include using over the counter moisture drops or ointments, having your eye care professional insert punctal plugs, or prescription medications. Staying hydrated also helps. Only your eye care professional can diagnose the problem and prescribe the proper treatment for you.


A patient who suffers from ocular allergies may experience similar symptoms as dry eye. They can include a discharge from eyes and nose, redness, and swollen lids, but the number one symptom to identify an allergy is itching.

Allergy Triggers

Allergies are caused by dirt, dust, pet dander, and environmental factors like allergens in the air, especially during the fall and spring.

As with dry eye, wearing contact lenses can exacerbate the symptoms and make wearing contacts almost unbearable.

Most Common Treatments for Ocular Allergies

Treatment for ocular allergies can include the following:

  • Over the counter antihistamines
  • Prescription medications to reduce the symptoms
  • Avoiding the triggers when possible

Visit South Texas Eye Institute to correctly identify whether you are suffering from dry eye or allergies and receive the proper treatment. Don’t suffer with dry eye or allergies when professional information and help is available.

One other option is to quit your contact lenses and consider LASIK laser eye surgery.

Contact the eye professionals at South Texas Eye Institute for answers to questions about whether you have dry eye or allergies.