Why do my contacts get dry during allergy season?
For many, spring represents improved weather from the chilling winter. The days become longer and brighter, flowers and leaves start to blossom and the temperature gradually increases. Once the spring arrives, the mindset shifts towards, “We made it through winter, bring on summer!"
The famous saying, “April showers bring May flowers," receives a warm reception from the majority of folks living in cold weather climates. However, if you have allergies, spring can be problematic. If you have allergies and wear contacts, it can be a double whammy. Don't worry allergy sufferers — you're not alone!
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion.
If you wear contacts, your eyes can become very dry and irritated for many reasons.
“You need to know the difference of dry eyes versus allergies," states Dr. John Lahr, the Medical Director for EyeMed Vision Care.
Don't fret! We are going to provide professional tips to avoid dry eye symptoms so your vision is clear and your contacts feel good, even during the pesky allergy season.
What causes spring allergies?
According to WebMD, the most common spring allergy trigger is pollen, which is made up of tiny particles of grain released into the air by trees, grass and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When pollen grains get into the nose or on the ocular surface of someone who's allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive.
The blooming flowers in spring means a high pollen count in the air, resulting in sneezing, itchy and watery eyes and an irritated throat.
What is the difference between dry eye and allergies?
Dr. Lahr states that while eye allergies can also cause redness and tearing, the main symptom is itching. An ocular allergy is caused by sensitivity to a substance that is not usually harmful. When the allergen interacts with cells called mast cells, a substance called histamine is released which causes itching, redness, and swelling.
Most allergies are due to environmental factors like pollen, cat dander, dust mites, etc. There can also be more serious ocular allergies that require medical intervention.
Dry eye is a broad term that can occur with either the lids, which secrete the oil layer, being infected or enflamed or the glands that secrete the other, which make up the tears, underperforming due most often to inflammation.
Tips for contact wearing allergy sufferers
Dr. Lahr suggests that wearing a daily disposable lenses will give the best chance for successful lens wear during allergy season. He recommends bringing contact solution and rewetting drops to your work after you leave your home. This way if your contacts become uncomfortable or irritated, you will be able to clean your contacts or provide more moisture for the eye with rewetting drops.
He recommends avoiding the temptation of rubbing your eyes as this can make matters worse. If contact lens wear times decrease significantly or the itching and watering are not acceptable, ask your eye doctor about prescription eye drops to treat your allergy symptoms more directly.