Q: My eyes water in the winter and in the summer, do I have allergies? I’m pretty sure it can’t be dry eye in the winter right?
A: When a patient is suffering from dry, itchy eyes it is often assumed to be the work of ocular allergies and the fact is 60 million Americans suffer from allergies, with 24 million of them being ocular. While these allergies are a real nuisance, what closely mimics these symptoms is something called dry eye disease, and yes you can experience dry eye even in the summer! Especially here in the desert, our patients can experience symptoms year round. Symptoms are the same as ocular allergies with dryness, soreness, grittiness, visual fluctuation, burning, and ironically one of the most common symptoms of dry eye is excessive watering of the eyes. Dry eye is a nuisance and affects quality of life, causing issues with reading, driving, working on a computer, wearing contacts and being outdoors, especially on windy days.
There are a few options for those suffering from dry eye including eyedrops, or artificial tears, which do help but treat the symptoms but not the cause. Holding a warm compress or washcloth to your eyes several times throughout the day has proven to be a simple, effective option for unclogging glands. Another easy option is starting a regiment of vitamins, particularly those rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil supplements. This helps the oil layer of your tears, decreasing evaporation. Your ophthalmologist can also prescribe stronger treatments. If you are experiencing the symptoms of allergies or dry eye, the best thing you can do is visit your ophthalmologist to go over the options, determine the problem, and which techniques will work best for your needs!