Do I have allergies or dry eye?

Spring is upon us. Ahhh….     Along with saying goodbye to the cold and snow, we welcome leaves back to the trees, green grasses, and beautiful blossoming flowers. To some allergy suffers, however, spring also means the return of itchy eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats.  Many people present to their eye doctor seeking relief from allergy related eye symptoms.   It can sometimes be very confusing both for patients and their doctors to differentiate between allergy related eye irritation vs. dry eye. This is especially the case for the many patients that suffer from both.




Why is it so confusing?

Mainly because there may be significant overlap in symptoms.  The eye has limited ways to “tell us” something is wrong.  Typical symptoms include foreign body sensation, gritty feeling, redness, burning, tearing, itching, or blurry vision.  For allergy sufferers the predominant symptom is itching.  For dry eye sufferers, foreign body sensation, burning, and tearing tend to dominate.    Again, however, there can be significant overlap.  For example, some people may feel symptoms more suggestive of allergies like itching, even though it is their dry eye that is causing all the trouble.

What to do?

Having an evaluation with your eye doctor is a very good place to start.  Along with carefully listening to what you are telling them about your symptoms, your eye doctor will thoroughly examine your eyes with a specialized microscope called a slit lamp.  This will allow them to look for very specific microscopic findings (clues) to help differentiate between allergies and dry eye.

Is other testing required?

In some instances when looking with a microscope alone does not help your doctor make the diagnosis, they may order more specialized studies such as in-office needleless allergy testing or basic blood work.   The doctors of Eye Physician and Surgeons utilize the Doctor’s Rx Allergy Formula diagnostic test. This FDA approved, in-office, needleless test provides eye care providers a comprehensive system to diagnostically test for allergies that may be the underlying cause of ocular surface disease.   Most insurances cover the testing which takes about 30 minutes to perform.  Responses to approximately 60 of the most common allergens endemic to our region of Connecticut are examined during your testing.


Once the appropriate diagnosis is made, your eye doctor fortunately has a wide variety of helpful treatments to get those pesky symptoms under control so that you can get back to smelling the blossoming flowers and enjoying spring symptom free.


Blog posted by Dr. Seth Meskin, a board certified ophthalmologist and fellowship trained specialist in cataract and corneal surgery and corneal diseases. For more information on allergy or dry eye, or any of the services we offer, please contact us (203) 878-1236 or at any of our 5 offices in Milford, Orange, Branford, Shelton, or Wesport. We’re looking forward to hearing from you soon.

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