At first glance, diagnosing an allergic reaction in the eyes seems simple. Yet the closer we look, the easier it becomes to mix up your typical allergic reaction with dry eye. It's important, however, not to mistake one for the other. Since both dry eye and ocular allergies need different treatments, confusing the two can only prolong discomfort and lead to greater discomfort.
Avoiding a mistake in diagnosis between the two requires an honest evaluation and an open mind. It also requires that you test for ocular allergy and dry eye. With both of these conditions, it’s best to visit your optometrist for a full evaluation!
Dry Eye Symptoms and Pathophysiology
When people complain of actual dry eye, it's not the result of an actual allergen like pollen. Instead, the release of fluids in the eye has been disrupted. The malfunction occurring is somewhere within the eye's tear ducts and components. The fundamental parts include the aqueous, lipids, and the mucins that are found free-floating in eye fluid, or tears.
90 percent of all tear production occurs in the aqueous layer of the eye. Here are the actual glands responsible for constriction that releases fluid for moistening the eyes. The lipid layer in the eye is where most dry eye complications come from. The outcome is related to the meibomian glands that, at times, cause fast evaporation of tears. The potential for this increases as we age since the body naturally produces less tears. As for the mucin factors related to dry eye, when the body doesn't produce enough ocular mucins, there's a high likelihood that tear production is also minimized to the point of having dry eyes.
But uncovering these things requires in-depth analysis by a medical professional. It's important for people with dryness in the eyes to treat it as soon as possible. Failing to keep the eyes hydrated can eventually lead to damage and cell desiccation, which can cause vision loss.
Ocular Allergy Symptoms and Pathophysiology
This eye condition is caused by some form of allergen. Allergens trigger extreme to mild responses for people who are predisposed. These triggers and allergens can come in the form of dust, animal dander, pollen, and other substances. The direct contact with an allergen alters the immune system and receptors.
These receptors are what cause chemicals like cytokines and histamine to be released. Both compounds will trigger more allergic symptoms. The best way to tell the difference between dry eye and an allergic reaction is to decipher these symptoms. The major symptoms that signify the difference includes itchy eyes, swelling,and high rates of tearing (or watery eyes).
In all, the diagnosis of an allergic reaction is tested by ocular itching, watery and red eyes, skin testing, and patient history.
The importance of proper diagnoses can't be overstated. The next time you're confused, put these differences together to get the right treatments for your symptoms. Dry eye and allergies can definitely coexist as well, and they can compound on the other. Better yet, get in and see your optometrist. She probably misses you!
One Love,Dr. Jenna