Is it allergies or do I have dry eyes? Do you have symptoms of itching, burning, irritation, tearing, light sensitivity, aching, foreign body sensation, blurred vision, etc.,? If you do, it could be any number of conditions, but, the most likely condition is dry eyes, allergy or both. How does one know if its an allergy vs dry eye?
Typically, if one has a history of allergies in general, one can deduce that symptoms are due to allergies. However, because there are various symptoms and presentations, patients present to eye doctors complaining that their method of management isn’t helping.
The symptoms may be due to dry eyes or allergies, but how do you know? Well, short of going to your eye doctor, the following are clues one can use. If the itching is the primary complaint, the condition is mostly allergic in nature. If one rubs the eye, and the itching is worse, the condition is likely allergic. However, if the person has a history of using certain medications such as, diuretics, anti-depressants, antihistamines, hormone replacements, or birth control, dry eye may be the culprit. Also, if one does a lot of reading or computer work, dry eye may be the culprit. The reason why prolonged periods of staring cause dry eyes is because of infrequent blinking. Blinking is a necessary mechanism to help coat our eyes with natural tears. Our eyelids and tears function in a way similar to windshield wipers and fluid. The fluid is produced and wiped away to keep the surface clear and the eye lubricated.
There are some diseases that are responsible for causing dry eyes. To name a few, Sjogrens Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. If one has these diseases, their dry eye is mostly inflammatory in nature, and more aggressive therapy is needed.
In general, dry eye patients require artificial tears, anti-inflammatories, immnunomodulators, increase water consumption, and/or omega 3 fatty acids. Depending on the type of dry eye, medication such as doxycycline can be helpful for short term use.
In patients with ocular allergies, antihistamines & mast cell stabilizers, anti-inflammatories and artificial tears are the normal course to proceed with. As one can see, the approach to management of both are similar, but one shouldn’t embark on self management. If the aforementioned symptoms do arise, one should see their eye doctor.
This blog is not intended to permit self diagnosis. Its only intended to provide useful information to patients so they can provide their eye care professional with more specific symtpoms to help aid in the diagnosis. If you have any eye related problems, see your eye care professional.