Spring is a sight for sore eyes
But it can also cause seasonal eye problems.
April 1, 2020
Spring brings new plant life, changes in the air and, for many, allergies and dry, itchy eyes. Are allergies to blame for dry eyes or is something else causing this? Let’s take a closer look at allergies, dry eyes and some of their lesser-known causes.
When allergies affect your eyes, symptoms often include:
- White, ropy discharge
- Swollen lids
- Frequent tearing
- Nasal itching and runny nose
Why does all of this happen? It’s your body’s way of protecting itself from things like dust, pollen, mold spores, animal dander and chemicals.
For contact lens wearers, symptoms can be worse. Contacts can trap pollen against the eye and create a protein buildup on the contact lens, which clouds vision. To keep this from happening, try wearing daily disposable contacts during allergy season.
Antihistamines, a type of allergy medication, can dry your eyes. If this happens, try a nasal spray or prescription eye drops instead when your symptoms are at their worst. Also, medications that you take for other conditions (not allergies) may be causing your dry eyes.
The best way to remedy dry eyes is to increase tear function. Tears are a mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus. Your tear glands sit above your eyes and produce the tear fluid that is wiped across your eye every time you blink.
Tears lubricate the eye, wash away irritants like pollen and hydrate your cornea, the clear outer layer of the front of the eye. Both over-the-counter and prescription eye drops can provide relief by supplementing your natural tears.
Our increased use of devices — from computers to smartphones — means we’re staring at screens more and blinking less. Blinking is like a windshield wiper for the eyes. When we blink less, our eyes are less lubricated.
Fewer tears can lead to poorer vision. People who have never had vision problems can develop cloudy vision because the cornea dries out. Eye drops can help with this. So can wearing prescription computer glasses or glasses that block blue light.
Our eyes can dry as we age because we produce fewer tears. Women’s eyes often begin to dry earlier than men’s. This is usually noticeable during the premenopausal years and after menopause.
There are proven ways to protect your eye’s natural lubrication. These include taking a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement to boost the oil component of your tears. You can also use preservative-free eye drops to replace your decreased tear function.
Environmental irritants like dust and animal dander are everywhere — on our bodies, clothes and throughout our homes. While these don’t bother everyone, you can help keep irritants from getting into your eyes and home by:
- Not rubbing your eyes
- Washing your hair every night
- Washing bedding and pillows often
- Taking your shoes off at the door
We’re here to help
Want to prepare for allergy season with your eyes wide open? The Polyclinic Optometry can help determine what’s causing your dry eyes. We also do complete eye exams to assess vision and eye health, prescribe glasses and fit contact lenses.
To schedule an appointment, call us at 1-206-323-3937.
By Holly Lebar, OD
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.