Dry Eyes vs Allergies: How to Tell the Difference

Dry eyes and allergies are both common causes of eye irritation and discomfort. But, these conditions have clear differences and require separate treatments. Understanding the difference between the symptoms of dry eyes and allergies can help you differentiate these conditions and get the proper care that you need.  

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a condition that happens when the eyes don’t produce enough tears for adequate lubrication. This condition may also occur in people who produce low-quality tears, meaning that their tears don’t evenly spread over the surface of the eyes or evaporate too rapidly.

Tears are necessary for the health and comfort of the surface of the eyes, as well as vision. So, when dry eye occurs, it can lead to several symptoms including:

  • Redness
  • Burning
  • The sensation of a foreign object in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigued eyes

Dry eyes can develop due to a variety of factors. Older individuals are much more likely to develop dry eyes, as the condition often occurs as a result of aging. Women are also more likely to get dry eyes because of hormonal factors. Medical conditions including arthritis, thyroid dysfunction, and diabetes, use of medications that reduce tear production, and poor environmental conditions can also contribute to dry eyes. 

Eye Allergies

Eye allergies, like any other type of allergy, occur because the immune system overreacts to a certain substance, called an allergen. Also known as allergic conjunctivitis, eye allergies may be seasonal, meaning that they occur at certain times of year (usually due to pollen) or perennial, meaning that they occur year-round. Common triggers of perennial eye allergies include cosmetics, dust mites, pet dander, and air pollution. 

The only symptoms shared by dry eye and eye allergies are redness, burning, and light sensitivity. Symptoms that occur only with allergies, not with dry eye, include:

  • Itchiness (which may be intense)
  • Watery eyes
  • Eyelid inflammation
  • Darkened under-eye circles

If you’re experiencing symptoms of eye allergies, schedule an appointment at Kratz Allergy & Asthma for comprehensive allergy care today!