DRY EYES AND ITCHY EYES: IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

Dr. Jim Martin 03/20/2014

allergy_eyes.jpgTo provide a simple answer to a complex question, yes, there is a difference between dry eyes and itchy eyes. In the past, the way the patient discerned whether their eyes itched or burned was to consider if they rubbed their eyes frequently. If that was the case, they discerned their eyes were itchy; a fact which led to a high number of misdiagnoses because, the truth is, you rub your eyes no matter what.

It soon became equally obvious that we needed better diagnostic tools. Luckily, this is not how we diagnose or differentiate between the two conditions today. 

How have things changed?

For one thing, eye care professionals and doctors have a better understanding of what happens to your eye in both dry and allergic responses. Dry eye actually indicates that there’s been a disruption in the eye’s moist surface. Your eyeball is protected by layers of mucus, oil, and water. When you blink, that protective layer gets replaced before it dries out and exposes the eye to the air.

However, the rate at which you blink can slow down and stop this protective cycle. This causes your vision to get blurry and you will often rub your eyes in response to encourage the tearing process.

Allergies indicate a different kind of surface disruption. An irritating particle like pollen, ragweed or pet dander can settle in the eye, causing irritation and an itchy sensation. You will rub your eyes because of histamine release that is used to deal with the allergen breakdown.

How can you tell the difference between dry eye and eye allergies?

It’s very easy to get these two confused, as you may experience both symptoms. If you have dry eyes, you will suffer from dryness, but possibly watering eyes. Your eyes will itch, burn and be red. You will likely see similar symptoms from eye allergies. However, along with eye allergies, you will probably experience other signs of irritation, such as sneezing and congestion. 

The best way to tell the difference between these two eye conditions is to look at a patient’s medical history and use diagnostic testing to confirm the diagnosis. If you have a compound condition, both problems will need to be treated separately.

Complete avoidance of irritants is not only unreasonable, it is unrealistic. Instead, we use a combination of decreased exposure to irritants and the proper ocular therapy, like artificial tears or an antihistamine to address and treat the problem. 

Where can I get relief for dry eyes and eye allergies?

Broome Optical in Amarillo, Texas offers state-of-the-art equipment and modern technology to best diagnose dry eye syndrome and eye allergies. This eye care center offers several treatments for eye relief. One of our latest technologies is LipiFlow and LipiView, cutting-edge tools that treat chronic dry eye. For more information about our eye care services, contact Broome Optical today. 

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