Is it Allergies or Dry Eye?
Well, of course, the answer may be it’s both! I get a lot of patients this time of year with dry eye symptoms – the dryness, scratchiness, burning, stinging, tired eyes, discomfort, variable vision – and the questions is… is this dry eye or is it allergies? And sometimes that answer is both!
Allergic conjunctivitis can come in many different forms, and we can get into that in another blog post, but loosely defined it’s the release of histamine caused by an allergen (this time of year, think pollen but can be anything… dust mites, cats, dogs, whatever). This causes itching, swelling, tearing, mucous production, red and swollen eyes.
Generally, the treatment for ocular allergies is going to be an antihistamines, or my favorite, a combination of an antihistamine and a mast cell stabilizer. What a mast cell stabilizer? Good question, a mast cell stabilizer actually prevents the release of histamine into the conjunctiva thereby stopping the process from happening. Once histamine is released, that’s when we need an antihistamine. So, having a drop that works both ways is way better than just one or the other in my opinion.
So, what does this have to do with dry eye? Well, dry eye and ocular allergies both create inflammation to the surface of the eye and surrounding tissue. And when you have both, the problem can definitely get more severe and intolerable… basically, one makes the other worse and the problems feed of each other … making you more miserable! For example, if you have a low volume of tears, well then you can’t wash allergens out of the eyes quite as easily and they can stay on the surface of the eye longer inciting a greater response! More itching, more tearing, more scratchiness! Many times aggressive treatment is warranted if you have both to bring the inflammation down to prevent damage to the ocular surface and you will feel much better too!! It is always better to treat these issues than to suffer with them. Call the office if you need help!