Do your eyes feel itchy, watery, or scratchy? These are some of the signs that you may have dry eye syndrome.
But they can also be signs of having allergies, which tend to worsen during allergy season. The trouble is that determining the cause of your discomfort can be challenging.
These symptoms describe dry eye syndrome and what allergy sufferers experience during the spring and summer seasons. If you’ve already been diagnosed with dry eyes, the additional irritation of allergy season will only worsen things.
Suffering from the frustrating and debilitating symptoms of dry eyes during allergy season makes it hard to enjoy the warmer months on the horizon. So, is there anything you can do to lessen your symptoms?
Keep reading to learn more about dry eyes and allergy symptoms to understand what they are, what causes them, and if there’s anything you can do to lessen the symptoms and make allergy season easier to endure!
What are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?
A healthy eye is a moist eye with a steady flow of tears that lubricate and protect it. Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes cannot produce enough tears or the right quality of tears to maintain eye health.
Tears play a much more significant role than expressing strong emotions. Tears help your eyes stay healthy.
Tears that are high quality have enough lipid (oil) to lubricate the eye’s surface. These lipids get produced by meibomian glands in the eyelid.
When you blink, it puts pressure on these glands and releases lipids. Lipids prevent evaporation of the eye’s natural moisture.
When the meibomian glands are blocked, they don’t produce enough lipids to protect the eye. The evaporation rate exceeds the eye’s output of protective lipids, leading to dry eyes.
When the evaporation rate exceeds the lipids produced by the eye, it leads to evaporative dry eye. Evaporative dry eye is the most common type. Up to 86% of patients diagnosed with dry eye syndrome have evaporative dry eye.
When you suffer from evaporative dry eye, your eyes can appear red, feel scratchy as if there’s grit or particles, itch and irritate you, and water excessively.
What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?
Over 35 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies each year. In April and May, tree pollen fills the air.
As spring goes into summer, grass pollen permeates the outdoors and everything around you in June and July. Allergy sufferers struggle in July and August when mold spores and weed pollen make life miserable.
The many kinds of pollen that trees, grass, and other flowering plants emit irritate the eyes and inflame the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid.
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is the most common allergy affecting the eye. When you suffer from seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, your eyes can appear red, feel irritated and inflamed, itch, cause irritation, and water excessively.
The big difference between seasonal allergy symptoms and dry eye syndrome is that nasal symptoms, in most cases, usually accompany seasonal allergy symptoms. As many as 80-90% of patients report both.
The best way to rule out dry eye syndrome is to see your eye doctor. If your eyes are dry, they can conduct tests to determine if your tears have enough osmolarity or if your tears are healthy. If your eyes are irritated and you have a runny nose, seasonal allergies are likely part of what’s bothering you.
The Endless Cycle of Pollen, Irritation, and Contact Lenses
If you wear contact lenses, seasonal allergies can make allergy season incredibly uncomfortable. When pollen covers everything from your car, home, and even your hands, it becomes almost impossible to avoid.
If you get pollen on your hands, there’s a very good chance it will end up in your eyes. Whether you’re adjusting your contact or accidentally rubbing your eyes, you run an increased risk of getting pollen in your eyes.
During allergy season, getting pollen in your eyes means further irritation. Your eyes may feel more uncomfortable, get puffy, or start watering more.
Juggling Dry Eyes and Having Seasonal Allergies
When allergy season swings into full bloom and you’re trying to manage your itchy eyes on top of dry eye syndrome, a few simple things can help you reduce your discomfort. Trying these at-home remedies can help improve your symptoms.
Use Over-the-Counter Allergy Medication and a Sterile Saline Rinse
Consider taking an over-the-counter allergy medication in the spring when your symptoms flare-up. However, be aware that oral antihistamines have a drying effect and can worsen your dry eyes. Use a sterile saline rinse to remove pollen and allergens from your eyes.
Make Your Eyes Feel More Comfortable with Drops, Tears, and Lubricants
Eyedrops, artificial tears, and eye lubricants can help restore eye moisture while making you feel more comfortable. If you know that you have allergies and dry eyes, keep drops or artificial tears on hand, especially during allergy season.
Watch Out for High Pollen Counts When Going Outdoors
Watch the weather and pay attention to the next day’s pollen count. You can check this on the evening news on television or a weather app.
Many weather apps keep track of pollen counts and advise you on days when the pollen count is high and is expected to make allergy suffers uncomfortable. Consider a time shift if you spend a lot of time outdoors for exercise, gardening, or other activities.
The time of day when the pollen count is highest is mid-morning and early evening. Avoid these hours if you can.
Close Windows and Don’t Use Fans to Keep Pollen from Getting Indoors
When you’re indoors, shut the windows and run the air conditioner. Running a window fan may cool you down, but it’ll introduce even more pollen into your home.
Wear Protective Eyewear When Completing Yard Work Outside
If you’re doing yard work such as cutting the grass, consider protective eyewear. You may feel a little strange wearing protective goggles, but they’ll protect your eyes from flying debris and pollen.
Reduce Your Contact Lens Use During Allergy Season
Give your eyes a break from contacts. Allergy season is a challenging time for contact lens wearers.
While you may not love wearing glasses, your eyes may feel more comfortable without lenses when they’re incredibly irritated. Wearing glasses has the added benefit of blocking pollen from your eyes.
Wear Sunglasses Whenever You’re Outside
A large pair of sunglasses can be equally protective. Wear sunglasses whenever you go outdoors, even on cloudy days.
The good news is that spring and summer don’t last forever. If you stay on top of addressing your allergy symptoms, you can avoid making your dry eyes worse.
Have you tried treating your dry eyes on your own? Find the relief you need this allergy season by scheduling an appointment at the Laurel Eye Clinic location closest to you!