Springtime brings revitalized plant life and changes in the air…and for some, allergies and dry, itchy eyes. Are allergies to blame for your dry eyes, or is something else causing your discomfort? In this season of renewal, let’s take a closer look at allergies and dry eyes and some the lesser-known causes behind the conditions.
Causes and Symptoms of Allergies and Dry Eyes
When allergies impact your eyes, the multiple symptoms often include white, ropy discharge in the eye, swollen lids, redness, frequent tearing, nasal itching, and runny nose. The cause? Your body’s defense against foreign invaders such as dust, pollen, mold spores, animal dander, and chemical agents.
For contact lens wearers, symptoms can be even worse: contacts can trap pollen against the eye and create a protein build-up on the contact lens, which clouds vision. Try daily disposable contacts during allergy season to avoid this possible build-up.
Antihistamines, a type of medication for allergies, can dry out your eyes. Consider switching to a nasal spray or prescription eye drop instead of taking an oral medication during the seasons your symptoms are most acute. It also could be that a medication you are taking for another condition is the cause of your dry eyes; not allergies.
Increasing your tear function is the best way to remedy dry eyes. Tears are a mixture of water, fatty oils, and mucus. Your tear glands sit above your eyes and produce the tear fluid that is wiped across your eye every time you blink. Tears lubricate the eye, wash away irritants (such as pollen) and hydrate your cornea. Both over-the-counter and prescription eye drops can provide relief and supplement your natural tears.
The increased use of devices—from our work computers to our smart phones—has led to us staring more at screens and blinking less. Blinking is the windshield wiper for tears across our eyes; and when we blink less, our eyes are less lubricated. Fewer tears eventually can lead to declined vision. People who have never had a vision problem can develop cloudy vision because of the drying out of the cornea.
Eye drops can help relieve discomfort, along with new blue light blocking lenses, and/or prescription computer glasses.
Our eyes can also dry as we age, due to reduced tear function. Women’s eyes often begin to dry earlier than men’s; usually noticeable during the premenopausal years and thereafter.
There are proven ways to preserve your eye’s natural lubrication such as taking a daily omega 3 fish oil supplement to help boost the oil component of your tears, and using a preservative-free eye drop to replace your diminished tear function.
While not allergens to everyone, many environmental irritants such as dust and dander can be found nearly everywhere—on our bodies, clothes and throughout our homes. Limit new irritants reaching your eyes and getting into your home by:
- Avoiding rubbing your eyes and by washing your hair every night.
- Washing bedding and pillows frequently and taking your shoes off at the door.
At The Polyclinic Optometry we can help you determine the source of your dry eyes, whether it’s allergies or too much time staring at a screen. We offer comprehensive eye exams to evaluate your vision and eye health and we can prescribe glasses and fit contact lenses. Call us at 206.323.3937 to schedule an appointment. We can prepare you for allergy season informed and empowered, with eyes wide open.