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4 Ways Allergies Cause Dry Eye

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a woman is outside holding a tissue and rubbing her eye because she has allergy induced dry eyes

We all love spending time outside or giving our pets some extra love, but for some of us, it means allergies. Itchy, dry, burning eyes brought on by excess pollen, grass, or pet dander in the air has us wanting to do anything it takes for relief. But what happens when our allergies bring on other problems for our eyes, such as dry eye disease?

Allergies can magnify any dry eye symptoms you may already be experiencing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

The eyes can be impacted by five main types of allergic conditions. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) lists them as:

Here are 4 ways your allergies may be causing dry eye disease:

  • Environmental factors
  • Allergy medications
  • Blepharitis
  • Tear film damage

Environmental Factors

During spring and summer, there is more pollen, mold, and grass in the air. These are common triggers for allergy sufferers. Pollen and other seasonal allergy-related airborne particles can lead to inflammation, which may trigger dry eye disease.

Allergy Medications

Antihistamines can help with symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes if you have an allergy to pollen, dust, or pets. However, the tear film that keeps the eye lubricated and healthy can also become dry from these medications. 

Antihistamine users may have lower tear production, and their tears may dry up more quickly. This means the eyes are not receiving proper lubrication and are more likely to develop dry eye disease.


Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids and typically affects both eyes along the edges of the eyelids. It can be associated with an allergic reaction to eye contact solutions or eye makeup. 

The tear film, which is made up of the water, oil, and mucus mixture that makes up tears, can become clogged with abnormally oily secretions and other debris shed from the eyelids, such as dandruff.

An abnormal tear film makes it difficult to keep your eyelids moist. This can irritate your eyes and cause dry eye disease.

Tear Film Damage

Allergic reactions can result in eye swelling which doesn’t allow the eye to close the way it should. Without regularly blinking and allowing the tear film to properly lubricate the eyes, they can dry out creating long-term damage to the tear film, and contributing to dry eye disease. 

How to Treat Dry Eye Disease from Allergies

The right treatment for dry eye disease caused by allergies depends on the true cause of the problem. Since both have similar symptoms, it’s important to start with an eye exam so that you and your eye doctor can determine if you’re suffering from dry eye disease or just an allergic reaction.

Either way, it can be a huge relief to find a treatment plan. Starting by properly preventing your allergy symptoms may even keep dry eye disease away. 

Eyelid Care

To reduce swelling around the eyes’ surface, try warm compresses, lid massage, or eyelid cleaners.

Eye Drops

Antihistamine drops are commonly used to treat ocular allergies. Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamine drops are widely available; however, steroid drops may be required if the ocular allergies are severe.

Your eye doctor might advise using preservative-free artificial tears in addition to allergy drops since antihistamine drops can reduce tear production. This will keep your eyes moist and prevent drying out.

a woman applies eye drops outside to help with dry eyes from allergies

Avoiding Allergies at Home

There are a few things you can try to see if your symptoms get better before taking medications. The production of histamine can be restricted by avoiding all allergens, which lessens the dry, itchy feeling in your eyes.

  • Avoid going outside when pollen counts are higher, early in the morning and at dusk
  • Allergens can be prevented from entering your home by keeping windows closed during the summer
  • To get rid of the dust and pet dander that gathers on surfaces in your home, clean it frequently
  • Wash your hands after touching your pets
  • Try glasses instead of contact lenses
  • Dehumidifiers can lessen mold in your home
  • Using mite-proof bedding
  • Washing your face if you’re exposed to allergens

When to Call Your Eye Doctor

If untreated, dry eye disease and eye allergies can get worse. Both conditions have the potential to be extremely uncomfortable and painful, which can lower your quality of life.

If the symptoms of dry eye disease don’t get any better with the mentioned treatments or even worsen, you should seriously consider contacting your eye doctor for further evaluation. They will be able to better examine:

  • The physical appearance of your eyes and how you’re blinking
  • The amount and quality of your tear production
  • The appearance of your cornea and eyelid

Whatever may be causing your dry irritated eyes, we are here to provide you with the relief you deserve. Book an appointment with EyeZone Nevada today.

Written by Daniel Rowan

Reno optometrist, Dr. Daniel Rowan, was raised in Western Canada and attended Norwich University in Vermont on a hockey scholarship. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in both biology and sports medicine, he received his Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from the New York College of Optometry in 2001. He performed rotations in a Queens VA hospital, specializing in glaucoma care, and an outpatient eye clinic in the Bronx. Immediately after graduating, he moved to Nevada and is now considered a top Reno optometrist. He is a member of the American Optometric Association and is board-certified by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry for the treatment and management of ocular diseases.
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