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The Difference Between Dry Eye and Allergies

Dry eye and eye allergies are the most common eye issues that do not involve wearing glasses or contact lenses. Often, people mistake dry eye for eye allergies because the two share some similar symptoms, including itchiness, soreness, and stinging sensations. 

Besides, dry eye and eye allergies can occur at the same time — and if you wear contact lenses, these two eye illnesses can make wearing contact lenses much harder. However, there are obvious differences between dry eye and eye allergies. The main difference between them is the roots of the symptoms.

Dry Eye Syndrome

A dry eye is an eye condition that reduces your eye's ability to produce or sustain enough tears. Your eyes usually make tears throughout the day. These tears help keep your eyes moist and wash away dust particles or other debris that may get into your eye. That way, your eyes stay healthy and your eyesight remains clear. 

The tears also have natural cleansers that protect the eyes from bacteria that may cause diseases. But when your eyes are not producing enough tears to keep them moist, they may dry out, causing dry eye syndrome.


Probable causes of dry eye include the following: 

  • Underlying health issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, and Sjogren's syndrome.

  • Dehydration.

  • Smoking.

  • Low levels of humidity.

  • Hormonal changes from oral contraceptives or during menopause.

  • Too much screen time.

Eye Allergies

Eye allergies, also called allergic conjunctivitis, refer to symptoms that occur when your eye comes into contact with something you are sensitive to. When this happens, your eye releases a chemical called histamine to drive away the substance causing the sensitive reaction. As a result, your eyes become swollen, sore, and itchy.


Possible causes of eye allergies include:

  • Pollen – ragweed pollen or tree pollen.

  • Dust mites.

  • Pet dander.

  • Smoke.

  • Mold.

  • Perfumes and fragrances.

Also, you are most likely to get eye allergies if you have hay fever or nasal sensitivities.

Dry Eye and Eye allergies Have Different Treatment.

Dry Eye

Treating dry eyes involves treating the underlying swelling, the meibomian glands, and using artificial tears or prescription drops in serious cases. If you wear contact lenses, your eye doctor may recommend different contact lenses that will keep your eyes moist all through the day. 

Eye Allergies

When treating eye allergies, eye doctors use antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers to stop the mast cells in the eyes from producing histamine. Also, artificial tears and cold compresses can treat eye allergies. Additionally, staying away from the allergens, if possible, or wearing protective eyewear, can ease eye allergies.

If you think you could be having dry eye or eye allergies, or both, visit your eye doctor for a detailed eye exam. That way, you can get an accurate assessment and settle for suitable treatment options.

For more on the difference between dry eye and allergies, visit Brandon Eyes at our offices in Middleton or Madison, Wisconsin. You can call (608) 833-7256 or (608) 833-0301 today to book an appointment.

A30master none 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Closed Closed (608) 833-0301 608-833-0302 6122 Mineral Point Road
Madison, WI 53705