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Do I have eye allergies or dry eye syndrome?

dry eye syndrome versus allergies image

You’ve been treating your burning, itching, irritated eyes with over-the-counter eye drops for longer than you can remember. You already know you’re allergic to pollen, mold and pet dander which can make you have watery eyes. So, it’s fair to say that when your eyes are red and uncomfortable, it’s probably because you’ve been exposed to something and the allergy drops you grabbed on your latest trip to Target will do the trick—right? We wish it were that simple, but the answer isn’t that concrete.

The same, but different

It’s easy to confuse dry eye syndrome with eye allergies or even conjunctivitis (pink eye). While some of the physical symptoms can be similar, the reason for those symptoms and the proper treatment are quite different for each case.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye symptoms can include:

  • Stinging, burning, redness and irritation
  • Scratchy or gritty sensation in the eye
  • Excessive tearing or watery eyes
  • The feeling that something is “in your eye”
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye fatigue
  • Glare issues at night and when driving
  • Trouble wearing contact lenses

These symptoms can be caused by various factors like age, menopause, medications, health conditions and controllable situations like environment and electronic device usage. Symptoms can lessen at times, but are typically chronic and worsen over time.

Eye Allergies

Symptoms of eye allergies include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Stinging, burning or painful eyes
  • Watery discharge from the eyes accompanied by a runny nose
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Other allergy symptoms like a scratchy throat

Allergy symptoms appear more suddenly and usually happen directly following exposure to an allergen. You may notice irritation after spending time at a nearby forest preserve or after visiting a friend that owns a cat or dog.

The right diagnosis and treatment

Our eye doctors encourage you to seek help when you begin noticing symptoms. Trying to self-diagnose or treat your symptoms using over-the-counter remedies won't work. It's critical to find out WHY you have dry eyes, before seeking treatment. Chronic dry eye syndrome can even cause permanent damage, so we stress the importance of seeking medical advice first.

During a comprehensive eye exam or dry eye evaluation, our optometrists will listen to you and perform the necessary tests to properly evaluate all of your symptoms.

With the help of the latest diagnostic tools and decades of experience treating patients with both conditions, our optometrists can help determine the cause of your eye irritation and provide the most effective treatment plan for you.

To focus exclusively on dry eye disease management, we recently opened the Midwest Dry Eye Center, a specialty center located within the Forsight Vision office.

Ready to visit an optometrist?

If you need an appointment, call us at 847-955-9393 or schedule online.

Find out even more about dry eye syndrome, advanced diagnostic technology and the state-of-the-art treatments we offer at the Midwest Dry Eye Center by visiting or call 847-383-5852.