Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What are some symptoms of dry eye allergies?

Dry eye and allergies are actually two different conditions. Dry eye disease occurs when abnormalities in your tear film cause discomfort in your eyes. It sometimes occurs with aging and can be caused by some medications. A lack of vitamin A can also cause dry eye, but this is rare in the United States. Eye allergies occur when your body's immune system reacts inappropriately to an otherwise harmless foreign substance such as dust, mold, pollen or animal dander.

Dry eye and allergies are easily confused because the symptoms of both are so similar.

Sufferers of dry eye disease and sufferers of eye allergies exhibit symptoms of eye irritation, redness, blurred vision, mucous secretion and sensitivity to bright lights. If you have allergies, the skin around your eyes may experience changes. With allergies you'll probably have copious amounts of tears, although if you take allergy medication you may actually experience a decrease in tear production. With dry eye your tear supply will probably -- though not necessarily -- be depleted. In fact, dry eye sometimes causes epiphora (excessive tearing). An allergic episode can aggravate dry eye disease, exacerbating symptoms that may previously have been tolerable.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Artificial tears can be helpful for both conditions. Frequent blinking may help patients with dry eye to feel more comfortable. Your ophthalmologist may want to close your tear canals to conserve your tears and help artificial tears last longer. Wraparound glasses and a humidifier may help as well, and there are ointments you can use on your eyes if they feel scratchy. Don't smoke or spend time around smoke, and try not to let your home get too dry.

Cold compresses, antihistamines and prescription medications are the best solution for eye allergies. It is challenging to treat a patient who has dry eye and an allergy simultaneously because treatment for one condition can exacerbate the other.