Distinguishing Between Dry Eye and Ocular Allergies

Dry eyes and ocular allergies are some of the most common eye problems that cannot be solved using prescriptive eyewear. The two conditions usually confuse people because they have very similar symptoms. Both cause itchiness in the eyes, a stinging sensation, and soreness. 

Also, you can suffer from both conditions simultaneously, making life very difficult. If you wear contact lenses, having these two conditions can make your lenses uncomfortable. Despite the similarities, you can learn to tell them apart. The main difference between them is the root cause of their symptoms.


Dry Eye 


It is estimated that about five million people in America have dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are an ocular condition where your eyes either fail to produce enough tears or produce poor tear quality. The tear comprises three primary layers, the mucin layer, an aqueous layer, and a lipid layer. If each of these layers is produced in the right quantity, your eyes will stay lubricated. 


Causes of Dry Eyes

It is difficult to diagnose dry eyes on your own because it mostly seems like allergies. However, some causes of dry eyes may be underlying medical conditions. These could be Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Other causes of dry eyes are:


  • Low humidity

  • Smoking

  • Hormonal fluctuations in women caused by menopause or oral contraceptives

  • Dehydration


Dry eyes may also be caused by spending a lot of time using digital devices. You may notice that if you limit your use of digital devices, you will alleviate your symptoms. Studies have also shown that chronic eye allergies can lead to dry eye syndrome. Also, if you use antihistamines for your allergies, they may dry out your eyes.




Diagnosis of dry eye is difficult without the help of an eye doctor. Some doctors may recommend artificial eye drops to lubricate your eyes. If the problem is locked meibomian glands, you may get LipiFlow®.


Ocular Allergies


Ocular allergies are also known as allergic conjunctivitis. They happen as some substances come into contact with your eyes. The eyes release histamines to fight the substances, which are often harmless. The interaction of histamines with these substances causes the symptoms of ocular allergies.


Causes of Ocular Allergies

For most Americans, their ocular allergies are seasonal. They mostly have them in spring and fall, which means they react to pollen from trees or ragweed. However, some people experience the symptoms of allergies throughout the year. It may be caused by other allergens in the environment. You are also more susceptible to ocular allergies if you have hay fever or nasal allergies.

Some of the other allergens that can cause ocular allergies are:


  • Dust mites

  • Pet dander

  • Smoke

  • Mold

  • Perfumes or fragrances




The first level of treatment is prevention: It would be best to void contact with some of the allergens mentioned above. If you cannot avoid contact, you can explore the following options.


One of the most effective cures for ocular allergies is oral antihistamines. However, these take some time to take effect, but if you need instant relief, you can use eye drops. When you get eye drops for allergies, ensure you get the ones without preservatives.


For more on distinguishing between dry eye and ocular allergies, visit Houston Dry Eye Clinic at our office in Houston, Texas. Call (713) 664-4760 to book an appointment today.