Can allergy medications cause dry eyes?

This time of year can be difficult to those with environmental allergies. (Courtesy NewsUSA)
Allergy sufferers can find relief through various medications, but these can also affect one's eyes.

As many as 30 million Americans are affected by seasonal allergies each year.

While many of these allergy sufferers can get by taking an occasional antihistamine, other chronic sufferers require a more regimented routine of allergy medications.

Symptoms for both year-round and seasonal allergies include runny, itchy or stuffy nose, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue and dry or itchy eyes. To avoid these inconvenient and sometimes painful effects of allergies, many people turn to daily antihistamines.

These include drugs like Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec. But eye doctors have a warning for all allergy sufferers. If your main symptoms of your allergies occur in your eyes, antihistamines may not be the answer!

“Antihistamines affect us systemically by causing our bodies to become drier overall, in turn inhibiting the natural tear production that comes from the lacrimal gland’, explains Dr. Kolten Kuntz, a Dry Eye Specialist at Spokane Eye Clinic. “This directly affects the aqueous layer of the ocular surface, which protects our eyes from the environment.” Antihistamines prevent our body from creating tears and increases the chance of inflammation in our eyes.

While an array of medications can cause dry eye, antihistamines are important to note. While they are taken to curb some allergy symptoms, they can in turn worsen others. Doctors recommend you pay close attention to your symptoms and make informed decisions on what medications to take based on the symptoms they treat and potential side effects.

If you’ve weighed the options and decide antihistamines are an essential part of your life, what can you do to promote proper tear production?

“We see dry eye syndrome on a daily basis here in the clinic. Based on the patient’s level of dry eye, we’ll recommend various treatments.” explains Dr. Kuntz. “There are things everyone can do at home to combat the dryness associated with medications or allergies. Using high-quality artificial tears in tandem with a warm compress, can open your tear ducts and increase tear production.”

If your dry eye symptoms are ongoing and they affect your quality of life, call and schedule an evaluation with a dry eye specialist today, to find out what treatment best fits your symptoms and lifestyle.