Are Allergies the Cause of My Dry Eyes


This is a common question most doctors will get asked. The short answer is there are a lot of eye conditions that can cause dry eyes, but one of the biggest factors is allergies. The next question is what kind of allergen? This often leads to frustration because there is no short response. For some ocular allergies is their diagnosis, so you can steer clear of the irritating substance from your eyes. However, if you are like most it can be environmental and often a dietary allergy. Let’s go through some key areas to see if your dry eyes are allergies, and we’ll cover a few things you can do to relieve them.

Dry Eye Symptoms / Eye Allergy Symptoms

Common symptoms of dry eyes include the feeling of them being dry or gritty, burning sensation, blurry vision, red eyes, itchy eyes, teary eyes, watery eyes, poor-quality tears, the inability to produce tears, mucous build up, your eyes being glued shut when you wake up in the morning, or even a runny nose. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms you’ve probably already been to your eye doctor, been diagnosed with some form of dry eye syndrome, and then placed on artificial tears.

Dry eye disease is an incredibly common condition, because of the lack of tears in the eyes. It is often painful and becomes hard to deal with so getting some form of lubrication is necessary. Unfortunately, being placed on artificial tears is a double-edged sword. You feel relief but over time your tear production will decrease. Why you ask? Well, our brain is very efficient. The saying if you don’t use it, you lose it runs true to the brain. If your brain sees you have enough tears because of the artificial tears, then it will slow the production of tears. Once this happens you then develop a chronic condition which is termed chronic dry eye.

Conditions that Cause Dry Eyes

Seasonal Allergies
A young woman standing in front of a flower tree wiping her eyes because of her allergies.

Most people can narrow down a season in which the listed symptoms above or similar symptoms occur. Some people have them year around and this would put you again in the category of chronic dry eye.

When we see a commonality of the symptoms being worse in a season it tells us seasonal allergens are a huge cause of dry eyes. The actual allergen causing your symptoms depends on your area. Common allergens are dust mites, pollen (especially if you have high pollen counts in your area), cedar, hay fever, different types of grasses, cotton, etc. If in your neighborhood, you have a high amount of any form of nature then it is probably a likely cause of your dry eyes. I live in Texas where there is lots of dirt and cotton. Dry eye symptoms increase with dust storms and when cotton is blooming here. For us allergy season is summer time, but your season will depend on your area.

Chronic Conditions

While some of the varying things in your area can cause your allergies often your home life is a big factor for chronic dry eyes. Pet dander taking the top of the list. We love our pets and so they share our environment. I mean who hasn’t had one of their pets try to steal your pillow. Even if they don’t sleep in bed with you just being in the house their dander is constantly circulating. The typical allergy is triggered by chronic exposure. Does this mean you are having an allergic reaction to your pets? Often the answer is yes. If you’re eyes get really irritated from pet dander (or other high allergens) you can develop allergic conjunctivitis. Does this mean you have to get rid of your beloved friend? Absolutely not just stay tuned for ways to help treat the symptoms.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

The conjunctiva or what looks like the surface of the eye will become swollen, tender and you will develop red eyes. Pet dander is one of the most common factors to this, but it can be triggered from any allergy including pollen and dust mites.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

This is a common condition that a lot of people have. It can be congenital from birth or something that you develop over time. This one typically is under diagnosed, so most people go through life not knowing they have this issue. The meibomian glands are responsible for keeping your eye moist. If these glands begin to fail, then the tear film on your eyes decrease and the eye irritation you feel will start to increase.

What’s the cause of MGD? Some people are just born with less glands (congenital). Others will get clogged meibomian glands. The most common factor of MGD is your age. Unfortunately, as we get older the number of meibomian glands will decrease. This is because some of the main causes are allergic conjunctivitis, dry eye diseases, bacterial infection, and inflamed eyes. Your eyes over time have been exposed to these factors for longer so your eye health with age goes down.

Root Cause of Dry Eyes

This one unfortunately is a hard one to answer. Your doctor hopefully by now has performed a comprehensive eye exam and has paired that with the uncomfortable symptoms you mentioned. Even with this it is hard to give you an accurate diagnosis because there are so many potential causes of dry eye. If you are someone that must know why, then this will be hard for you. Especially if you are someone whose quality of life has been affected by your eyes. The hard part for doctors is that there are so many environmental factors that cause dry eye, but also your immune system plays a large factor in it as well. Often it helps to see your primary doctor to make sure you don’t have other health conditions outside of the eye causing this. Often times if your doctors can work together, they are more likely to give you a proper diagnosis.

I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of people that have dry eyes or just eye discomfort in general is due to either environmental allergens or dietary allergens / sensitivities. Going to an allergy doctor and having them perform an allergy test on you as well as testing for food allergies and sensitivities can often be a great first step to figuring out which allergies are the cause of your symptoms. Once you know the allergens that effect you, you then can make changes to prevent exposure.

Treatment Options

Evaluating your daily activities

what might be causing your dry eyes. Examples I have seen are irritation after washing your face or putting on lotion or makeup. Eating the same or similar thing every day. Living by a farm or garden that always produces the same things. Irritation after using the same perfume every day, and the list goes on! Journal your routine and see if you can find your triggers! Once you know your triggers you can make lifestyle changes like using a new face wash, new makeup, new lotion, changing up your diet routine, etc. Changing things up prevents your body from flagging a product as a threat to your immune system.

Allergy Medication / Oral Medication

For some this is a good step to use to just calm down the symptoms. Having all the symptoms of eye allergies can be overwhelming and for some even leads to depression. Often times if you can just give your body a break from the symptoms it gives you clarity to seek out a correct diagnosis for what is going on.

Warm Compresses

While this really isn’t a treatment to fix the problem, doing warm compresses often times will relieve the pressure and pain you feel in your eyes. Again, sometimes it’s not always about I have to fix this issue right now, but more so it’s I’m struggling right now what will give me some relief now until I fix it.

Over the Counter Eye Drops / Prescription Eye Drops

This is the most common thing doctors will recommend. Like we mentioned above this is great to help give you temporary relief but if used for a long time can lead to chronic dry eye. If you have separate conditions like Sjogren’s causing this then doing eye drops for you is necessary, because your cause is the autoimmunity, and you can’t fix the dry eye without fixing the autoimmunity.

Alternative Medication

If you are like me and you don’t like taking medications, there are some more natural options. I, along with my family, use Antronex from Standard Process. Oral antihistamines can be a tremendous help in calming down the symptoms. Antronex hands down is my personal favorite supplement to use. It has done wonders for our allergies, and if we have a flare up we simply add in a few extra pills until it goes down.

Instead of using prescription eyedrops we will take a drop of vitamin A and put it directly into our eyes. The first few times it can burn, but many studies will tell you vitamin A is the vitamin of the eye, so direct supplementation helps a lot of the symptoms of dry eye.

 My dad had ocular allergies and other severe conditions that stopped the production of tears. For years he used artificial tears, but they stopped working for him and he was miserable. While we couldn’t fix all of the medical conditions causing it, we were able to keep his eyes lubricated and comfortable with using vitamin A drops in his eyes. Over time my dad regained the ability to make his own healthy tears. He always had to use the drops, but to see his body regain the ability to make some tears was simply amazing!


Dry Environments definitely contribute to dry eyes. Unless you want to up and move to a wet environment like Florida, then having some humidifiers in the house can make your environment a bit more friendly for your eyes.

Changing Contact Lenses

A lot of people like the monthly contacts because it’s just more convenient. However, contacts are becoming a common cause to dry eyes. Simply switching to daily contact lenses many people have been able to calm down or even stop their dry eyes. If contacts become a big factor in your dry eyes, you might even consider going back to wearing glasses and discussing with your doctor what the best eye care for you is.

Blue Light Screen Protectors

If you, like many of the population, work at a computer all day then your dry eyes can actually be triggered from the light on your computer. Placing a blue light blocker over the screen helps to protect your eyes from the light, and helps to decrease this irritation leading to dry eyes. This one is incredibly important if one of your symptoms is also light sensitivity.

Hiring Out Yard Work
A man mowing his green lawn with flowers in the yard. A very common action that triggers peoples allergies

Cutting the grass for a lot of people will trigger an allergic response. If your symptoms get worse after yard work, then hire someone that enjoys doing this that doesn’t have allergic symptoms after working in the yard. If you don’t want to give up cutting the grass then try wearing protective goggles. Why you might think you look funny it will drastically decrease the exposure you have to the allergens. If breathing in the allergen is what gets you, they make some great breathable respirators you can wear that will protect you as well.

Home Purifiers

If you suffer from a lot of environmental allergies this can be one of the best options for you. We spend a lot of times in our homes so clearing the air of these allergens can make a dramatic difference. If you think your work environment is a big factor, then try having a humidifier at work with you too. It’s a simple and yet very effective tool.

Personalized Treatment Plan

Your dry eyes are different from every other person’s dry eyes! Being able to narrow down the type of allergy that is triggering your dry eyes, will help you to determine the right path for you. If yours is environmental, try out some of the top tips we provided for clearing your environment of these allergens.

If yours isn’t an environmental trigger then do a food diary to see if you are eating something causing your allergies. Also see about getting a blood test to determine these allergens for you. Avoiding these food for a lot of people will help clear up their dry eyes.

You will have to put in a little work to determine your triggers so that you can develop the appropriate treatment for you. If it is too overwhelming reach out to your doctor for help. As always if you are looking at trying something new check with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you.

We hope these tips and tricks help! Let us know if you were able to help clear up those dry eyes! These tips and tricks have helped our families, and we hope they provide the same relief for you!

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