When your eyes become irritated, it’s difficult to not assume the worst. Nobody wants an eye infection, and since many of the symptoms can also be attributed to other irritants, it’s hard to know when it’s an infection or when it’s something else. So how do you differentiate between dry eyes, allergies, and infections? While the symptoms can cross over into each other — allergies can lead to dry eyes, for example — each is a very different malady. Check out some of the earmark telltale differences between them and how you can tell the difference.
- Dry Eyes. A person suffering from dry eyes typically experiences a burning or a scratchy feeling in their eyes, often accompanied by a ‘foreign body sensation,’ or the feeling that something is ‘in their eye.’ This is sometimes accompanied by light sensitivity. Unlike allergies or infection, dry eyes can usually be remedied by using artificial tears, or eye drops.
- Allergies. If someone is suffering from allergies, then they usually experience tearing and itchy eyes on top of the burning or scratching sensation. The tearing and itching usually occurs in the presence of an allergen. Many people refuse to believe that the problem they’re having with their eyes is due to an allergen if the allergen hasn’t been present before or in a very long time. For example, if the person is allergic to cats and their neighbor just bought a kitten, the presence of those allergens could be causing the irritation.
- Infection. The most common eye condition that people face is called conjunctivitis, or as it’s more commonly known, pink eye. This occurs when the conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelids and also covers the white part of your eyes, becomes inflamed. While this can happen as a result of allergies, it can also be caused by viruses and bacteria. Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by the adenovirus, and is highly contagious. People infected should avoid touching their eyes, and should not touch hands or share items like towels with anyone else. It usually resolves itself within a few weeks. Bacterial conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by bacteria like the ones that cause staph infections (staphylococcus) and strep throat (streptococcus), and can be treated with antibiotics.