Itchy, watery, and gritty eyes? It could be allergies, or it could be dry eyes. Dry eyes and allergies come with many similar symptoms, such as inflamed and watery eyes.

But they have different underlying causes. While allergies are mostly seasonal, dry eyes are often the result of insufficient tears.

What’s more, allergies and dry eyes have different treatment methods, too. Telling the two apart means you can start your specific treatment or prevent their occurrence in the first place.

So, do you have dry eyes or allergies?

Dry Eyes vs Allergy Eyes Symptoms

Redness, inflammation, and watery eyes are common symptoms of both dry eyes and allergies. But several other symptoms set them apart.

Allergies generally cause itchiness while dry eyes can make your vision blurry. Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of dry eyes vs allergy eyes.

Allergy Eye Symptoms

Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, can turn your eyes red and puffy. These symptoms occur when your eyes react to irritants or allergens. While eye allergies aren’t contagious, they can cause severe itchiness.

Because of the itchiness, you may rub your eyes. This can lead to common symptoms like tears and redness.

Other symptoms include puffy and burning eyes, dark under-eye circles, and sensitivity to light.

man with head down wiping nose with white handkerchief

But unlike dry eyes, eye allergies come with additional symptoms like runny nose, cough, skin irritation, and congestion.

Dry Eyes Symptoms

Dry eyes usually occur when your tear ducts don’t produce enough tears or the tears are of low quality. As a result, your eyes are not well lubricated. This can leave you with a gritty, uncomfortable feeling in the eye, as if there is sand in them.

Some common symptoms of dry eyes include redness, burning, and excessive watering of eyes. You may even experience sensitivity to light and blurry vision.

So, how are dry eyes different from allergies? Well, lack of tears and dryness in your eye don’t cause the swelling and itchiness that allergies do.

What Causes Allergies and Dry Eyes?

Allergies and dry eyes have different underlying causes. It’s important to understand these causes to give your eyes the relief they need. 

While dry eyes are the result of insufficient tear production or poor quality tears, allergies are seasonal. They’re a reaction to certain allergens.

Eye Allergy Causes

Eye allergies are triggered by allergens. When the allergen comes in contact with your eyes, your body reacts by releasing histamine and other chemicals. The result is symptoms like itching, redness, and watering of the eyes.

Eye allergies are generally seasonal. You are likely to catch these in spring and autumn. Anything from pollen to pet dander, dust mites, smoke, mold, and perfume can trigger an allergic reaction in your eye.

closeup of pollen dust from flower against green background

Eye allergies can also be a side effect of pregnancy, LASIK surgery, certain medications, eyelid infection, and wearing contaminated contact lenses. Also, you are more likely to get eye allergies if you have nasal sensitivities or hay fever.

Dry Eye Causes

Dry eye syndrome has several causes, from prolonged exposure to blue light to dehydration, age, and hormonal changes. But dry eyes are not seasonal. You can experience them any time of the year.

Lifestyle factors often lead to dry eyes. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Not blinking your eyes enough while using a computer or smartphone
  • Eating foods that don’t provide your eyes with enough essential nutrients
  • Wearing contact lenses for long hours
  • Spending long hours in dry, air-conditioned rooms

Other factors that trigger dryness in the eye are your medications, pregnancy or menopause, windy and dry air, and eye surgeries.

You can also get dry eyes due to medical conditions like diabetes and nocturnal lagophthalmos, in which the eyelids don’t close fully when you sleep.

How to Treat Allergies and Dry Eyes

The treatment for dry eyes or allergies will depend on what’s causing them in the first place. Once you know the cause, you can start taking preventive measures and the right treatment.

For eye allergies, it’s best to prevent exposure to the substances you’re allergic to.

Take a look at the different ways you can treat allergies and dry eyes.

closeup of blue human eye with red hair to one side

Allergy Treatment

Eye allergies treatment involves taking oral medication. This helps alleviate the symptoms and bring relief. But make sure the medicines you take are prescribed by your eye doctor.

You can also use eye drops for allergies. These will rinse allergens out of your eyes and bring instant relief. You may need to use them multiple times a day. But remember, eye drops will lessen the irritation but not remove its underlying cause.

If your eye allergies come up every season, try preventing the cause. Close all windows in your house during the pollen season, wear sunglasses outdoors, and use air purifiers to cut down on mold and pet dander.

Dry Eye Treatment

To treat dry eyes, you can take medications as well as artificial tears and ointments. These will lubricate the surface of your eye and reduce the stinging, gritty sensation.

Over-the-counter tear drops may contain harmful preservatives, so it's safer to discuss treatment options with your eye doctor.

Punctal plugs can also help treat dryness. These are used to block your tear ducts and keep tears in your eyes for longer. If you have dry eyes due to allergies, you may also need to take medications for allergies.

Certain lifestyle changes can also help treat dryness. Apply a warm compress to reduce inflammation. Keep yourself hydrated, eat a nutrient-rich diet, quit smoking, and wear sunglasses if it’s windy outside.

Also, blink more often while sitting in front of your computer. This will moisten your eyes and make them more relaxed by the end of the day. You also want to reduce contact lens use. Wear glasses instead.

woman with eyeglasses reading from a red book with greenery in the background

An eye health supplement can also help. Whether you’re already eating healthy or finding it hard to eat nutritious meals because of your schedule, an eye health supplement like SightC or Blueberry Gummies can supply key nutrients and antioxidants to keep your eyes healthy.

Key Takeaways

Whether you have dry eyes or allergies, your eyes can feel inflamed, sandy, and uncomfortable all the time. But you don’t have to sit back and endure the symptoms.

It’s best to visit your eye doctor and follow the prescribed treatment. Once you know what’s causing the allergies or dry eyes, you can also check how you can prevent them in the first place.

For allergies, prevent exposure to pet dander, pollen, mold, mites, and any other triggers. If that’s not possible all the time, use antihistamine medications during the allergy season.

To prevent dry eyes, reduce blue light exposure from your devices. Also, eat healthy, stay hydrated, avoid dry and windy spaces, and quit smoking.

You will start to notice how your seasonal allergies and dry eyes disappear or at least become less uncomfortable over time.

Still not sure whether you have dry eyes or an allergy? Our quick dry eye online test can help you find out within minutes. Take the Dry Eye Test.

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