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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Dry Eyes or Allergies? : Relief is Within Sight

Feb 27, 2019 01:07PM ● By Diane York

Dr. Daniel Gray, a board-certified optometrist and owner of Brook Run Vision Center, says that spring will soon be arriving, and with it, seasonal allergies. Allergic conjunctivitis or other ocular allergies happen when the immune system overreacts to a particular trigger substance. The immune system makes antibodies that cause the eyes to release histamine and other chemicals, which causes itching and red, watery eyes. These conditions are typically not serious and should not cause long-term damage to eyesight other than temporary blurriness. However, infections and other conditions can cause the same symptoms, so it is wise to see an eye doctor if symptoms do not improve. There are two types of eye allergies: seasonal, which are more common, and perennial.

        Spring, summer and autumn are the times of the year that seasonal allergies most often occur. Typical allergens in the air include pollen from grasses, trees and weeds, as well as spores from molds. Perennial allergies, on the other hand, can occur at any time. Major causes include dust mites, feathers (in bedding) and pet dander. Other substances, including perfumes, smoke, chlorine, air pollution, cosmetics and certain medicines can also cause eye irritation.

        When allergies occur, Gray does not recommend using antihistamines for dry, red, itchy eyes because antihistamines (and other drugs) can make the eyes even dryer. While there are specific prescription drugs for that problem, they can be extremely expensive. Instead, he recommends using eyelid cleaners designed to soothe the eyes and remove allergens like pollen or dust. There are also punctal plugs, also known as tear duct plugs, that can be inserted in the corner of the eye where the tear duct empties. These help keep natural moisture in the eye, where it belongs.

        Gray advises that while dry eyes are very common in seniors and diabetics, there is a new group that also needs to be concerned about dry eyes—high school and college students. With hours spent looking at computer, cell phone and tablet screens, dry eyes have become the younger generation’s problem, too. He recommends that eyeglasses have anti-reflective lenses and to consider blue blockers to reduce the amount of blue light exposure from computers. 

        Many of the classic signs of dry eye, including redness, light sensitivity, blurry vision, itchy eyes and foreign body sensation are related to tear film imbalances. Brook Run Vision Center offers extended relief for those with a form of dry eye caused by blocked oil glands (meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD) through a therapeutic technique known as LipiFlow. LipiFlow provides a more holistic way to restore the tear film to its normal, healthy state.

        Brook Run Vision Center offers one-stop shopping for vision-related problems, including prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses and contact lenses. It also provides computer vision treatment, dry eyes treatment and testing for glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as emergency eye care due to an accident or injury.

Diane York is a local freelance writer who focuses on health and lifestyle topics. Her books, It Ain’t You Babe, A Woman’s Guide to Surviving Infidelity and Divorce, and Fecal Transplant, New Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Disease, Diarrhea, C.diff., Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, and More are available on and at Barnes and Noble Bookstores.

Brook Run Vision Center is located at 5644 Brook Rd. For appointments, call 804-264-2956. For more information, visit