Both dry eyes and eye allergies can cause discomfort and affect vision, but they are different conditions with varying degrees of severity depending on the individual and the specific symptoms experienced.

Do you have an allergy issue that calls for a visit to your local ophthalmologist? Or do you just need to pick up some eye drops at the store? Here’s a quick breakdown of how to tell the difference between eye allergies and dry eyes.

If Your Eyes Are Itchy, It’s Allergies

The biggest sign that someone has allergic conjunctivitis is that they will have severe itching in their eyes. The itching may be bad enough that it triggers tears, or else causes you to rub your eyes until tears appear.

Also, unlike with dry eyes, the tears will do little to relieve the irritation.

Like other allergies, allergic conjunctivitis is typically caused by irritating particles in the air, such as pollen, dander, mold, or smoke. In rare cases, certain eye makeup products may cause allergic reactions as well. These can typically be treated by an eye doctor with antihistamine eye drops, or similar medications.

Dry Eyes Have A Variety Of Symptoms

If you merely have dry eyes, there can actually be a number of symptoms – but extreme itchiness isn’t among them.

Dry eyes can lead to:

  • Burning sensations
  • A feeling like something is in your eye, but nothing’s there
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Red bleary eyes
  • Excessive mucus buildup (“eye boogers”)

In rare cases, dry eyes can also cause a seesawing effect where a person’s eyes go from dry, to having an excess of tears, and then back to dry.

Most of the time, dry eyes can be treated with regular over-the-counter eye drops. However, if you have chronic dry eye, that could be a symptom of more serious problems. For example, meibomian gland dysfunction occurs when the glands producing tears and lubricating oils become clogged.

If Your Eyes Keep Burning, See An Eye Doctor

Most of the time, both allergies and dry eye are temporary and go away quickly. However, if this becomes a constant problem, you should seek out a qualified optometrist for an examination. Valley Eyecare Center in Phoenix, AZ, is here to help! If your eyes keep itching or burning, contact us for an appointment to look into it.