Allergies versus dry eye syndrome

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Whether they are itchy, sore, burning, dry or runny our eyes can cause us a lot of pain.  This time of year many assume the pain is caused by allergies but that's not always the case.

A lot of people do have allergies with varying degrees of symptoms.  Some people have allergies only in their eyes while others experience sneezing and congestion.  For those who think they have eye allergy problems the diagnosis could be something else all together.

"This time of year if you have itchy watery eyes then the betting odds are that it's caused by tree pollen allergies," said Allergist Dr. Scot Snodgrass.

But what you have may not be caused by allergies!

"Dry Eye Syndrome can cause your eyes to be red and watery and can also make your eyes a little more itchy than normal," said Dr. Courtney Hoffman.

Dr. Courtney Hoffman said the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome and allergies mimic each other.

"There can be some overlap between the two and if you do have dry eye it will make your allergies, if you have ocular allergies also, worse," said Hoffman.

One way to determine if you do have allergies is to be tested.  Allergist Dr. Scot Snodgrass said another way to tell on your own is if you have other symptoms.

"Most of those people don't just have eye symptoms they tend to have nasal symptoms along with it," said Snodgrass.

The primary symptom with allergies in your eyes is itching where with dry eyes the biggest symptom is burning.

"If they have those symptoms they just assume it's an allergic trigger and it may or may not be," said Snodgrass.

20% of the population has allergies where 60% of people in the U.S. above the age of 50 have Dry Eye Syndrome.

Women are much more likely to have dry eye syndrome than males.  Symptoms usually start around menopause.

"Many people suffer from their eyes being very uncomfortable and have no idea there's anything that can be done about it," said Hoffman.

If you think you might have Dry Eye Syndrome you are encouraged to visit your eye care doctor some treatments for the ailment include artificial tear drops and using a warm compress.

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