Learn how seasonal allergies and dry eye are closely connected and tips on how to manage them.
Spring is upon us, and that means one thing - pollen is in the air! For many, this means sniffles, watery eyes, and other yucky symptoms.
But did you know that seasonal allergies and dry eye are closely connected? Taking medicine for allergies, like oral antihistamines, can make dry eye symptoms worse. This can create a vicious cycle where dry eye make allergies worse, and allergies make dry eye even more uncomfortable.
In this blog, we're going to talk about how seasonal allergies and dry eye are connected and give you some tips to help manage both at the same time. So, let's get started!
Seasonal allergies occur when the body's immune system has an excessive reaction to environmental factors, typically during the spring or summer, when certain plants are in bloom.
It can be a nuisance for many, both adults and children. According to a recent report from the CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, nearly one-quarter of adults and 1 in 5 children in the US reported having seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies can cause a range of symptoms, ranging from sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, throat, or ear canals, congestion, wheezing, and coughing. These symptoms occur when the immune system overreacts to outdoor allergens.
In many parts of the United States, seasonal allergies typically start in the spring, from February to March, and last until early summer. During this time, tree pollination begins first, followed by grass and ragweed. Birch and cedar trees are common allergens in North America, while in tropical climates, grass may pollinate throughout the year. The severity of allergy symptoms can also be influenced by climate factors such as humidity, wind, and rainfall.
Dry eye from allergies
Seasonal allergies and dry eye are closely connected, and managing one condition can often impact the other. Some medicines for allergies, such as oral antihistamines, can worsen dry eye symptoms. This is because these medicines can reduce the amount of tears your eyes produce, which is crucial for keeping your eyes moisturized.
Chronic eye allergies can also lead to changes in the tissues in the glands in your eyelids, causing your eyes to produce unhealthy tear components and making dry eye even more uncomfortable.
The relationship between allergies and dry eye can also work in reverse. If you have dry eye, your eyes may not produce enough tears to protect against allergens such as pollen, worsening your allergies. Conversely, if you have allergies, exposure to things like pollen can irritate your eyes and trigger dry eye symptoms.
So, having dry eye can make allergies worse, and having allergies can also worsen symptoms of dry eye. It's a catch-22!
How to Manage Dry Eye Due to Allergies?
Avoid allergens and reduce exposure to allergy triggers
Allergies can be a nuisance, especially during the spring and summer months when pollen counts are high. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, there are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to allergens.
1. Take extra precautions during high pollen counts: If high pollen counts are forecasted, close doors and windows at night and avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
2. Stay indoors on windy days: To reduce your exposure to allergens, stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
3. Keep indoor air clean: There's no miracle product that can eliminate all allergens from the air in your home, but using a portable HEPA filter in your bedroom, and cleaning floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter can help reduce your exposure to allergens.
4. Reduce your exposure to other allergy triggers: To reduce your exposure to other allergy triggers, wear a facial mask when lawn mowing, weed pulling, and other gardening chores that stir up allergens. Surgical masks are effective and easy to obtain. Remove clothes you've worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair. Don't hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels. Wear a face mask if you do outside chores.
5. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist: If you suffer from eye allergies, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about antihistamine eye drops that can help soothe your eyes.
Managing dry eye by identifying the cause
There are many different treatments available to manage dry eye, ranging from over-the-counter artificial tears to prescription medications. However, finding the right treatment for dry eye depends on the root cause of the problem.
One of the biggest challenges of managing dry eye is figuring out if it's caused by allergies or something else. Eye allergies can cause symptoms that are similar to dry eye, so it's important to get a proper diagnosis from an eye doctor. This way, you'll know for sure what's causing your symptoms and what treatments will be most effective.
Allergies are usually treated with antihistamines. There are many different options available over-the-counter or by prescription. However, it's important to note that these drugs can sometimes make dry eye symptoms worse by decreasing tear production, especially oral antihistamines. To help prevent this, your eye doctor may recommend using antihistamine eye drops along with preservative-free artificial tears to treat your eye allergies while keeping your eyes lubricated.
For the best results, it's recommended to use preservative-free artificial tears more frequently. Avoid using thicker gel or ointment types as they may not be as effective at washing out environmental allergens and other things that can cause inflammation in the eyes.
In addition to using medications, there are several simple steps you can take to help alleviate dry eye symptoms. Try to avoid being in environments that are smoky, windy, or air-conditioned, and limit the amount of time you spend looking at computer monitors, phones, or televisions. When you're outside, wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes. Drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep each night can also help improve your symptoms.
If your dry eye symptoms persist or get worse, it's a good idea to see your eye doctor again. Many different factors can cause dry eye, and your doctor can check for other possible causes and recommend other treatments. If left untreated, severe dry eye can lead to eye inflammation, scratches on the cornea, and even vision loss. To prevent these complications, it's important to get the right treatment for your dry eye symptoms.
The connection between seasonal allergies and dry eye is strong and can cause a vicious cycle. With one condition worsening the other and vice versa, it's important to be aware of the relationship and take steps to manage both.
By reducing exposure to allergens and allergens triggers, using the right treatment for dry eye, and taking steps to keep your eyes healthy, you can stay comfortable and avoid the symptoms of both conditions. So, don't let allergies and dry eye get you down this spring and summer. Keep your eyes and nose clear, and enjoy the season!
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