Is It Eye Allergies or Dry Eyes?
Eye Allergy and Dry Eye symptoms tend to be very similar. They both include redness, itchiness, tearing, and a gritty or burning sensation in the eyes.
Is it really an allergic reaction, or could it be Dry Eyes? Before running to the pharmacy for some antihistamines, it would be worth digging into the cause of these reactions in order to assure that you’re choosing the right treatment option.
If you’ve been using artificial tears, prescription allergy medication, or other over the counter medicine to relieve the itchy, dry feeling, but see no improvement— it may be worth visiting the Harrel Dry Eye Care Centers and speaking with Dr. Monte Harrel, who can provide a diagnosis and solution for your condition.
What’s the Difference Between Eye Allergies and Dry Eyes?
Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, occur when the eyes react to elements that irritate them (allergens). One can develop eye allergies from pet dander, dust, pollen, smoke, perfumes, or even certain foods. To fight off the allergen, the eyes produce a substance called histamine, which causes the eyelids to become red, swollen and itchy — and at times to tear and burn. Those with eye allergies tend to experience nasal allergies as well, which include an itchy, stuffy nose, along with frequent sneezing.
People with Dry Eyes suffer from eyes that feel dry, itchy, swollen, irritated, and at times very painful. Dry eye syndrome can be developed as a result of genetics, age, environment, lifestyle, medications, and the overall health of your eyes. When one has dry eyes, the eyes are either not producing enough tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication.
How Are Eye Allergies and Dry Eyes Treated?
Eye allergies can be treated using artificial tears, medicated eye drops, decongestants, antihistamines, or anti-inflammatory medications. Depending on your specific case, Dr. Monte Harrel may recommend a combination of treatments.
However, if it is determined that you have dry eyes, Dr. Monte Harrel may suggest artificial tears or lubricant eye drops to alleviate the discomfort, and in some cases, may even prescribe drops or steroids. For patients with more acute cases of dry eyes, the doctor might suggest alternative treatment options, such as LipiFlow, True Tear, TearCare or scleral lenses.
If you’re suffering from any of the above symptoms, speak with , who will examine and thoroughly assess the source of these reactions, determine whether they are caused by allergies or Dry Eyes, and provide the right treatment.
The Harrel Dry Eye Care Centers services patients from Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma City, Fort Smith, AK, and throughout Oklahoma.
Spring Dry Eyes
Spring is a time of renewal, when the harsh winter is just a memory and the outdoors seem to beckon us to go outside. While spring may be in the air, so are allergens. Allergies during the spring season can cause dry eyes and have a particularly severe effect on people with Dry Eye Syndrome.
During the spring months, pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust can be found in the air. These airborne allergens can trigger uncomfortable reactions like itchy, red, and watery eyes, as well as sneezing and sinus congestion. At The Practice Name Dry Eye Center, we can offer you long-term relief for your seasonal dry eyes.
How Do The Seasons Affect Dry Eyes?
Although certain people with sensitivities to allergens may be more prone to allergic reactions, the seasons of the year can trigger these responses, too. In the winter, for instance, dry eyes can develop in people who live in climates with a lot of dry, cold air or strong winds. Sitting in direct aim of a heater may feel wonderful when it’s cold, but it can also dry out the eyes. In the summer when the heat is intense and people run their air conditioning systems regularly, dry eyes can develop from being in the direction of cold air.
A 5-year study found that 21% of the 3.4 million visits to an eye doctor during that time were related to dry eyes. Each year, there was a peak during April, proving that there is a likely correlation between allergens and dry eye cases.
Common Symptoms Of Seasonal Dry Eyes
The most common symptoms of dry eyes in the spring are:
- Blurry vision
- Gritty feeling
- Watery eyes
It may seem odd, but watery eyes are a frequent symptom of dry eyes. It’s the body’s way of trying to self-heal the dryness by releasing excess tears, a condition called Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS). This condition gives some relief, but because these tears contain an inadequate amount of water, the relief is temporary and more long-lasting options are needed.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with The Practice Name Dry Eye Center. We have the knowledge, years of experience, latest technologies, and effective solutions to give you relief for your dry eyes this spring season.
Relief For Dry Eyes In The Springtime
Dry Eye Doctor Name treats patients from all over CITY 1, State who are suffering from seasonal dry eyes. Depending on your specific case and the intensity of your symptoms, the doctor may recommend daily artificial tears or lubricant eye drops to alleviate the pain. These can stimulate your eye’s natural tear production to moisturize the eyes and provide comfort. In some cases, prescription drops or steroids can produce similar results.
For patients with severe types of dry eyes, the doctor may talk to you about punctual plugs. These are tiny devices that are inserted inside the tear duct. They block your tears from draining out, which forces them to stay in your eye, coating and moisturizing the area.
Have you heard about scleral lenses? These are contact lenses that are made from rigid materials and contain a tiny pool of water, which provides moisture to dry eyes. Scleral lenses have a large diameter that covers the entire sclera (white part of the eye) without touching the cornea, so they can fit more comfortably. Because each person’s eye is unique, scleral lenses must be custom-fitted for each patient.
When It’s More Than Allergies
If your symptoms persist long after spring is over, and especially if they worsen, this may indicate signs of a more serious eye condition.
Examples can include any of the following:
- Blepharitis (inflamed eyelids)
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Corneal Abrasions
- Dry Eye Disease
- Styes (an oil gland infection that causes a bump in the eyelid
We hope you take the time to enjoy this spring season. Should you experience any visual discomfort or are naturally prone to dry eyes, contact Dry Eye Doctor Name and the caring staff at The Practice Name Dry Eye Center. We’ll examine your eyes and discuss your personal needs to create an action plan that’s right for you.
Ultraviolet Light and your Eyes
If you want strong, healthy eyes and clear vision for life, a major step you can take is to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Wearing proper eye protection from the sun reduces the risk of a number of eye diseases and other conditions that are caused or worsened by UV exposure.
Eye Diseases Linked to UV Exposure
UV exposure has been linked to a number of serious eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts.
Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula of the eye breaks down, leading to a loss of central vision and is a leading cause of age-related vision loss. Macular degeneration develops over time so a lifetime of exposure to UV can contribute it’s likelihood.
Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, resulting in blurred vision and eventually blindness. The len is responsible for focusing the light that comes into the eye, allowing clear vision. Cataracts can be treated by a simple surgery to replace the clouded lens with an artificial lens. UV light contributes to certain types of cataracts, which account for about 10% of all cases.
Another serious disease that can affect the eyes is skin cancer which can appear on the eyelids or the area around the eyes. Skin cancer is known to be linked to extended exposure to UV and your eyes can be a difficult area to protect with sun block as you don’t want it to get too close to the eyes.
Other Eye Conditions Linked to UV Exposure
Photokeratitis or Corneal Sunburn
Photokeratitis or a corneal sunburn in layman’s terms can occur with intense exposure to the sun without proper eye protection. It is commonly experienced after a day skiing or snowboarding at a high altitude or at the beach. Corneal sunburns can be extremely painful and can sometimes cause a temporary loss of vision.
Pterygium, also known as “surfer’s eye” is a growth that forms on the conjunctiva which is a layer over the sclera or the white part of your eye. Sometimes they grow onto the cornea as well. Often pterygia are harmless but if they grow too large they may begin to impact your vision. In this case, surgery may be necessary. Pterygia are commonly found in individuals who spend a significant amount of time outside in the sun or wind.
How to Properly Protect Your Eyes From UV
The more time you spend outside, the greater the risk for your eyes, however you can easily minimize this risk with proper protection. Here are a few tips to ensure you are doing what you can to safeguard your eyes:
Fully protective sunglasses should block out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. You can achieve this through purchasing a pair of sunglasses, applying a UV blocking coating to your glasses or opting for photochromic lenses which are eyeglass lenses which turn dark when exposed to sunlight. Most contact lenses will also have UV protection but this is just for the area of the eye covered by the lens.
Since UV exposure can enter from the air, the ground or from the sides, wrap-around and large lensed frames can provide added protection.
Add a Wide Brimmed Hat
A wide brimmed hat or visor will stop about half of the UV rays from even reaching your eyes as well as reduce the exposure coming in from the top or sides of your sunglass frames.
Know Your Environmental Risk Factors
UV exposure is largely dependent upon your location and your surroundings. If you are located at a high altitude you will likely be exposed to more UV than at lower altitudes. UV also reflects off of snow, sand, water and even asphalt so be aware that you are getting increased exposure under these conditions.
Know Your Additional Risk Factors
There are a number of other factors that can increase your exposure or risk of eye damage from UV. For example, certain medications increase the sensitivity of your eyes and skin to sunlight (speak to your doctor about any medications you are on). Previous eye surgery or eye diseases can also increase your risk factors for UV eye damage. Additionally if you work in certain fields such as welding or medical scans or radiation or use tanning beds, you can be exposed to additional UV radiation. If there is nothing you can do to change your exposure, make sure you are properly protecting your eyes with goggles or glasses and a hat.
Regular Eye Exams
Make sure you schedule a comprehensive eye exam on a regular basis to ensure your eyes are healthy. If you are over 50 or have increased risk factors for eye disease, you should schedule exams at least on a yearly basis or according to your eye doctor’s recommendations.
Should I Be Concerned When My Eyelid Twitches?
We all experience the occasional eyelid twitch, which is when the muscle of the eyelid spasms involuntarily. Usually, it comes and goes without intervention and while sure, it can be irritating, is a twitching eyelid ever something to be concerned about?
An eyelid twitch, also known as a myokymia, can affect the upper or lower lid and usually lasts for at least a few seconds and then may continue off and on for a few minutes. Usually unpredictable, twitching episodes can last several days and sometimes they may go away and then return weeks or months later.
Causes of Eyelid Twitching
Although they may be bothersome, most eyelid twitches are nothing to cause concern and usually resolve on their own. However, in some rare cases, they may be a sign of a more serious problem, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms – we will discuss this further below.
Some known causes of eyelid twitches include:
- Fatigue or lack of sleep
- Eye irritation or dry eyes
- Alcohol or caffeine
- Physical exertion
- Eye strain (such as with extended digital device use)
- Poor nutrition
Preventing and Treating Eyelid Twitching
Usually eyelid twitching will resolve itself within a couple of days or weeks but if it persists try to determine the cause in order to speed up the process. Consider going to bed a little earlier, cutting out caffeine or alcohol or finding ways to reduce or manage your stress. You can also try lubricating eye drops to add moisture to your eyes. If you take notice of when the spasms are happening and what else is going on in your life at that time (time of day, food intake, stress level, exhaustion) you can make some changes that will stop or prevent eye twitching from occuring.
If you notice eye twitching in addition to vision disturbances or eye strain, contact your doctor for a vision assessment as it could be a sign of a refractive change.
When is Eyelid Twitching a Concern?
If the eyelid spasms don’t pass and become chronic it may be a sign that you have a condition called benign essential blepharospasm. This condition is when the eye muscles blink uncontrollably and it usually affects both eyes. While the cause of blepharospasm is not known, it is more common in middle age women and there are a number of conditions that can exacerbate symptoms including:
- Eye inflammation (blepharitis) or infection (pink eye)
- Dry eyes
- Alcohol, caffeine or tobacco
- Irritants or allergens in the environment
Blepharospasm is usually a progressive condition that can eventually lead to spasms in other muscles in the face, blurred vision and light sensitivity. The condition is sometimes treated with medication or Botox (botulinum toxin) to temporarily reduce the spasms and in severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove some of the muscles that are affected.
On very rare occasions eye twitching can be a symptom of a more serious disorder affecting the brain or nervous system, however, usually it will be accompanied by other symptoms. Examples of such conditions include: glaucoma, hemifacial spasms, Parkinson’s disease, Bell’s palsy, multiple sclerosis, dystonia, and Tourette’s. A corneal scratch or abrasion can also be a cause of the eyelid muscle spasm.
If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your eye twitching, see your doctor as soon as possible:
- Twitching that continues for more than a few weeks
- Twitching that spreads to other areas of the face
- A drooping upper eyelid
- Red, irritated or swollen eyes
- Discharge coming from the eye
- Spasms that cause the eyelid to close completely or difficulty opening the eyelid.
In most cases, eye twitching is not something to worry about, but when you do experience a spasm it is worthwhile to take note of the circumstances so you know when your body is trying to tell you that something is out of balance.
Signs of Eye and Vision Problems in Infants
Despite nine months of growth in utero, babies are not born with fully developed eyes and vision – just like they can’t walk or talk yet. Over the first few months of life, their visual systems continue to progress, stimulated by their surroundings.
Babies will develop the ability to track objects, focus their eyes, and move them like a team. Their visual acuity will improve and they will gradually be able to see more colors. They will also form the neural connections that will allow them to process what they see, to understand and interact with the world around them.
Healthy eyes and good vision are necessary for proper and timely progress; ocular or visual problems can lead to developmental delays.
So how do you know if your infant is developing normally? What can you do to ensure your baby’s eye health and vision are on track? While infant eye problems are not common here are some steps you can take to ensure your child’s eyes are healthy.
#1 Schedule a six month check-up.
It is recommended to get the first professional comprehensive eye and vision exam for your child between six and 12 months of age.
Your optometrist should check for the following skills at the 6-month checkup:
- Visual acuity (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism)
- Eye muscle and movement capabilities
- Eye health
If you have any concerns prior to six months, don’t hesitate to take your baby for an exam earlier.
#2 Engage in visually stimulating play.
Incorporating visually stimulating play for your child will help develop visual processes like eye tracking and eye teaming.
A baby’s initial focusing distance is 20-30 cm, so to nurture healthy vision skills, keep high contrast “reach and touch” toys within this distance. Alternate right and left sides with each feeding, and provide toys that encourage tracking of moving objects to foster eye-hand coordination and depth perception.
Pediatricians in North America recommend that NO screen time be allowed under the age of 2, as many forms of development may be delayed from premature use of digital devices.
#3 Be alert to eye and vision problems.
Keep an eye out for indications of an eye health problem, and contact an eye doctor to discuss any concerns you may have. Some symptoms to pay attention to include:
- Red eyes or eyelids, which may or may not be accompanied by discharge and crusty lids. This may indicate an eye infection that can be very contagious and may require medication.
- Excessive eye watering or tearing. This may be caused by a problem with the tear ducts, such as a blockage.
- Extreme light sensitivity. While some light sensitivity is normal, significant sensitivity to light can be a sign of disease or elevated eye pressure.
- Eye “jiggling” or bouncing. This suggests a problem with the muscle control of the eyes.
- Eye turn. Whether it is an eye that seems to cross in or a “lazy eye” that turns out, this is often associated with a refractive error or eye muscle issues that could require treatment such as eyeglasses, vision therapy, patching or surgery.
- White pupil. This can be a sign of a number of diseases, including cancer. If you see this have it checked out immediately.
Since your infant’s eyes are still maturing, any issues that are found can likely be corrected with proper care and treatment. The important thing is to find a pediatric eye care provider that you trust because you will want to regularly check the health of your child’s eyes to ensure proper learning and development throughout infancy and beyond.
AMD Awareness Could Save Your Vision
It’s that time of the year again. Each February, the optometric community bands together to create awareness about age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause o