Maintaining Eye Health

Is It Seasonal Allergies – or Dry Eye Disease?

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Now that spring has arrived, seasonal allergies are blooming along with the flowers. However, recent research suggests that seasonal allergies are not the only condition that gets worse due to increased amounts of pollen, mold and other particles in the air. Researchers have found that the number of dry eye disease cases also spike in the spring. In fact, it can be difficult to know which condition you have, given that both share similar symptoms, such as itchy, watery eyes.

“As with seasonal allergies, dry eye disease can affect your quality of life and impair your vision,” says cornea specialist Sejal Amin, M.D.

The effects of dry eye disease
Dry eye disease occurs when your eyes don’t have normal tear production. This can mean that your eyes don’t make enough tears, the tears they produce aren’t healthy – or both.

No matter how it’s caused, dry eye disease typically affects both eyes, and can produce a number of symptoms besides itchy, watery eyes, including:

  • Persistent eye dryness
  • A burning or stinging sensation in the eyes
  • Red, irritated eyes that produce a scratchy sensation
  • Periods of blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your eyes
  • A stringy discharge from your eyes
  • Eye fatigue

“Dry eye disease can be more than just a nuisance,” Dr. Amin says. “It can also damage your cornea, the surface of the eye. If you have dry eye symptoms, you should see your ophthalmologist.”

Treating dry eye disease
Depending on your specific symptoms, your ophthalmologist may suggest a number of solutions, including:

  • Environmental changes: Including using an air filter or humidifier in your home to reduce allergens.
  • Lifestyle changes: This may include switching contact lenses or wearing them less often, blinking more often and wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from wind and the sun.
  • Over-the-counter or home remedies: Including artificial tears, eyelid washes or warm compresses.

“People who do not respond to these treatments may benefit from more advanced solutions,” Dr. Amin says. “This could include prescription eye drops, tear duct plugs or a special contact lens that traps fluid against the surface of the eye.”

Learn more from Dr. Amin about the condition in this video:

For an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (1-800-436-7936).

Dr. Sejal Amin is a cornea specialist seeing patients at the Henry Ford OptimEyes Super Vision Center in Westland,  at Henry Ford Medical Center – Livonia and at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.