PSA: Dry, Tired Eyes + Allergies = Bad News

dry eyes and allergies2017 Update: If you have dry eyes and allergies please take care of your eyes! We’ve updated links below. 

This isn’t entirely a “beauty Wednesday” feature, but as we head into spring allergy season I thought I’d remind everyone to take very good care of your eyes, particularly if you wear contacts. You see, I had a serious scare with my eyes because when I first started working at my law firm, I didn’t know four things:
a) how dry the office air was
b) how dry my eyes were naturally
c) how much allergies affected my eyes — it never occurred to me to check beneath the lids of my eyes to see all the little raised bumps that allergies put there
d) how surprisingly easy to do serious damage to your eyes if you have the above 3 conditions and are also not taking the best care of your contacts

The first year at my law firm, I wore contacts about 90% of the time (contacts I was supposed to wear for 8-12 hours a day and throw away every 2 weeks… neither of which happened), and loved (LOVED) to get home after a long day at the office and rub my eyes for like a minute. Aaaaah – felt so good! When allergy season hit, my lack of knowledge (those damned little bumps!) meant I was done for — unbeknownst to me, I was basically exfoliating my corneas.  (Pictured: Allergy eye, originally uploaded to Flickr by Pahz.)

It probably didn’t help that I was working long hours — 16-18 hour days weren’t that uncommon.  Over the course of a few weeks, my eyes turned a little pink, then got watery.  Then I noticed that my vision was blurry, even if I was just wearing my glasses. (Actually, especially if I was wearing my glasses — so I wore my contacts more.) One day, I met my younger brother for lunch near the office, and he grabbed my shoulders, leaned close to inspect my eyes, and said, “Kat, your eyes look sick. Like, yellow and dull.” I went back to the office and found an eye doctor.

The next day, the ophthalmologist took one look and sent me to a cornea specialist. He looked through his scope, and began drawing what he said was my eyeball — first a big circle, then lots and lots and lots of little circles. He started dotting at the paper, almost making jabbing motions. “This is what you’re doing to your eyes,” he said. I hadn’t hit the cornea — yet — but I was very close to rubbing through the layer that protects your cornea. He ordered me to stop wearing all eye makeup, to wear nothing but glasses, to rest my eyes whenever I wasn’t using them, and — oh yes — to keep a pretty vigorous, semi-hourly routine of drops, some OTC, some prescribed. (For years after this I kept using the OTC stuff — Theratears Gel — every night before I went to bed, and highly recommend them to anyone who has dry eyes.) Leaving his office in my eyeglasses, I realized I could barely see the difference between the street and the curb.

Long story short: after about two weeks of this routine, I was back in eye makeup and contacts, and could pack my audiobooks away, but I learned a lifelong lesson: never take your eyes for granted! According to my cornea specialist (who I still see every six months), it took about a year for my eyes to recover completely.  I consider myself very, very lucky.  Some major tips I learned from the experience:

1. If your eyes are itchy because of spring allergies, avoid rubbing your eyes. 

I still remember how much I loved to rub my eyes — but these days if I’m not removing eye-makeup, I’m not touching my eyes.

2. Blink! If you have dry eyes, try to blink more often. 

If you’re using a computer frequently you’re probably blinking less — there are actually apps you can download to help you remember to blink. Take a break every hour from the computer and try to really focus on blinking more frequently.

3. Be wary of using Visine to get the red out if your eyes are red — at least, not on a daily basis.

If you have a big meeting and want your red eyes (either from allergies, dryness, or whatever reason) to go away, maybe break out the Visine — but it’s actually drying to your eyes, which only exacerbates the problem. Use a product like Theratears to keep your eyes moist throughout the day, and talk with your eye doctor about whether prescription drops are appropriate to help with your symptoms.  (I’ve never used them, but a quick look at the Visine website shows that they now have products for allergies and dry, tired eyes.)

4. Reconsider wearing daily contacts if you have dry eyes, a dry office, allergies, or all of the above. 

At the very least, get a pair of glasses to keep at the office so you can take your contacts out if you’re working late. 2017 Update: Here’s our latest discussion on affordable eyeglasses you can get online.

5. Consider getting a humidifier if your office air is dry.

Humidifiers can really help with dry office air — but be careful to clean it regularly — the mold can be even worse for your health. I really like this humidifier because it’s so easy to clean.

6. Follow the directions on your contact use.

While my contact use wasn’t egregious (I wasn’t sleeping in them, although I did probably wear them for 16 hours, and keep a pair about 4x longer than directed), my eye doctor recommended I wear glasses most of the time after this incident. I tried rigid gas permeable lenses for a while, but now I ultimately prefer single-use contacts for dry eyes.  (I looked into LASIK for myself, and while my regular doctor thought I could do the procedure, a doctor I saw for a second opinion said he wouldn’t chance it, considering how dry my eyes are.)

Ladies, have you had any health scares caused by seemingly normal activities?  Do you suffer from allergies, dry eyes, or other eye woes?

A few years ago, I nearly permanently injured my corneas because I didn't know some basics about dry, tired eyes, allergy season (conjunctivitis fun!), proper contact lens use, and too much computer time being hard on eyes. Here's my story -- don't let it happen to you!


  1. Related TJ: My allergies are started to act up ( I think one of the many trees here in the northwest are pollinating right now). What medications or natural remedies do people recommend?

    • I take nettle every day, which reduces the overall severity of (but does not stop) my allergies. It takes a while to build up in your system (maybe a month), but after that you should notice that your allergies are not as bad as they were. YMMV, of course, but I’ve recommended this to lots of people who have had positive experiences.

      Beyond that, I use a neti pot occasionally and take Zyrtec (generic). Using the neti more regularly is on the list of things I should do, but don’t.

    • Zaditor for itchy eyes. Love it.

      I am a claritin every day kinda gal. It’ super-cheap at Costco–like 10 cents/pill.

    • I use Zyrtec – Claritin and Allavert didn’t do it for me. The generic versions are just as good. I think it’s trial and error; different meds will work for different people. So maybe get small packs of a few kinds of allergy meds and try them on rotating days to see what works best for you.

      • I’m with you, Bluejay. Also, Zaditor and flonase when it’s bad.

        • How do you like Flonase? I use Astepro for fumes-related sensitivity (smoke, perfume, incense, etc) but I hate that it sort of drips in the back of my throat and leaves an odd taste in my mouth.

          • I LOVE Astepro, except for the dripping and disgusting taste. But it works SO WELL. Patanase was ok but I would have to use it in conjunction with a steroid (fluccotonate or something? in a brown glass bottle). I haven’t used flonase in years, so I don’t know about that.

          • @Godzilla – yeah, Astepro is seriously amazing. I can sit through a high Mass with incense, something I could never in a million years have done without it. I guess the dripping is the price I have to pay.

          • I like Flonase – it works without being drying so much that I never really thought about trying anything else.

          • Flonase is the one medication to which I had an awful reaction. As in – I developed every side effect you are warned about and got monster migraine-type headaches with each use. I stay far, far away from nose sprays of any type.

    • Legal Marketer :

      Just saw this in my twitter feed:

    • Singulair in the morning and a Zyrtec in the afternoon. The Zyrtec is super cheap from Costco. FWIW, I take Zyrtec year round and the Singulair during the worst of my spring/fall allergies.

    • Zertec is the best well its the only one that actually helps me stop sneezing but my face still hurts from all the blowing and touching the night before but no sneezing I can control. My face better without all the sneezing air conditioning really helps to maybe it’s the filter but I do appreciate the temp when my face feels like it’s on FIRE! He he oh which reminds me how quickly zertec works 20min 30 max.its so quick that It somehow fooled me into thinking it starts working right away where other brands I won’t mention fools me that it’s gonna start sometime and went sometime comes its time to take another lie(pill) there’s nothing worse than hoping it’s gonna work ALL DAY. Yeah I had it bad but now I. Have found.. And now pass it on. :)

  2. Yikes, Kat! Good tips, though.

    My eye doctor recommended that I use Zaditor eye drops when my allergies are acting up. They’re an antihistamine drop and after 2 weeks of regular use, the dryness and red eyes I’d been living with for months cleared up.

    I’m really terrible about wearing my contacts too long during the day but I hate glasses so much. Compared to contacts, I do not see clearly with glasses at all. I’ll wear them around the house and for reading, but I’m afraid to drive while wearing them. (Yes, my prescription is current and correct, and I’ve had this problem with every pair of glasses I’ve owned since switching to contacts at age 14. It’s bizarre.)

    I’ve also broken the habit of rubbing my eyes but oh man, I miss it!

    • Freaking Out :

      Midwest, I can’t drive in my glasses either. I can do okay on the highway, but in town I get a weird visual disorientation. I think it’s doing so much looking side to side and behind that it would take my eyes a while to get used to it, and I just put my contacts back in first. Just wanted you say you are not alone in this phenomenon.

      • I used to have similar problems, with the “extra-thin” glasses (whatever they’re called by your optician). The problem resolved when I started going to a fancy (read: very expensive) optician, where the people really pride themselves on getting each Rx perfect. My ophthalmologist is always impressed when she checks my glasses. It makes a huge difference for me, so the extra cost is worth it to me.

        • Interesting that you’ve had that experience with the thin glasses, too. My prescription is pretty strong and without the thin lenses, my glasses look pretty awful — but I never thought of that being the cause of not being able to see as well.

          • There’s something about the process of making the focal point thinner that increases distortion at the edges. Someone explained it to me once, but the details didn’t stick. My current places uses higher-quality forms, and when I got glasses last year they had even started using lasers somehow to get more precision.

      • Anonymous :


    • karenpadi :

      Have your doctor check for astigmatism. I have the same issue and slight astigmatism that was over-corrected for in my glasses.

  3. Aggggh! This sounds terrible. And this post made me want to rub my eyes immediately.

    Big thanks to the ‘Rettes who recommended Jaleo in Vegas yesterday. Hubs and I ate there last night…SWOON. The food was amazing!

  4. One year into practicing, my eyelids got super dry and red. I ended up with a bacterial infection on my lids. It cleared up fast with the ointment I was prescribed. So remember to moisturize your eyelids!

    Double, no triple, the recommendation for a humidifier in the office. It helps my eyes, my skin, and the temperature. Plus, it’s an easy way to help stay hydrated.

  5. My first pair of glasses arrived at a young age with a cartoon caracter on the temples, so they’re a part of me.

    Zatidor is amazing! It’s a great OTC alternative to $90 eye drops prescription I heard about from a woman whose eye allergies are so intese, she said she wished she could pop her eyes out of her head and rinse them off.

    There is beauty advice for people with varying skin types, tones, ages, and the like. How do people with allergies keep their makeup on this time of year? Nose blowing typically wipes off lipstick and foundation, and watery eyes can move around eye makeup, foundation, concealer and blush. I do not work with the public, so I typically go without makeup.

    As for non-medicine remedies, a cool, wet washcloth over the eyes helps a bit.

    • I’ve had much better luck with Zaditor than Patinol (one of the expensive prescription drops). I heard that the latter could be used daily for a while and you wouldn’t need it as much, but I usually had to get refills every 2-3 months.

      I recommend just getting a humidity monitor, because overly humid homes/offices can be just as much an issue as dry offices. Once you get above 55% humidity, dust mites thrive. I have a big dust mite allergy and notice I feel much better now that I have a dehumidifier in my home.

    • I don’t wear any makeup when my allergies are particularly bad. It just makes it worse. And this spring is so bad that my skin is reacting to everything anyway. Even my trusty moisturizers are causing my skin to flake. My body is in super attack mode.

  6. Any suggestions for office humidifiers? I’m in an open floor cubicle set up, so it would have to be small, quiet, and directed… I’ve looked for months, but no luck!

    • No time to find mine for you right now, but look on A mazon for “travel humidifier” — very small, quiet, and uses a fiji water bottle as the tank. I think it was about $20 — money well spent.

    • My allergist recommends slant/fin humidfiers. They are “heated” meaning they kill bacteria. Any “cool” humidifiers are just bacteria/mold breeding grounds.

  7. I got an awful eye infection a couple of winters ago as a result of dry eyes and sleeping in my contacts once (I went out of town for 1 night and forgot my contact case). Allergies didn’t play a role in my case, just dry winter air. When I came down with symptoms I immediately went to urgent care and was prescribed drops. The drops were either the wrong kind or I wasn’t prescribed them for long enough because my infection came back with a vengeance and made it that much harder to treat for good. So my advice is to make sure to see a real eye doctor at first sign of a problem! A general practitioner just doesn’t have the right tools and can actually make the problem worse. Definitely keep a humidifier in your workplace if it’s dry, never sleep overnight in contacts, and scrub up like a surgeon before inserting or removing your contacts. And don’t forget, keep your hands off of your face!

    • Jenny the Good :

      So true about the general practitioner not having the right tools. (See story below.) When I first went to the ER, they told me I had pinkeye, and had no evidence of a corneal tear. Thankfully they referred me to an ophthalmologist who could tell that I had removed a large hunk of cornea.

  8. Scary story! I wish that I could make some better use of it, myself. I’m so nearsighted that I simply cannot function in glasses, even around the house (I wear them when reading at night, but only if I can be staring straight ahead.)

    Over the past several years, I’ve noticed my contacts seem to shift around a lot in eyes, to where I constantly have to blink them back into place. I’ve tried a few new ones (including a kind for astigmatism and the one-day Acuvue Moist), and they seem to make the problem worse, not better, so I’m back in my Acuvue 2 week Oasis. Any one have any tips for this? Wish I were a candidate for surgery!

    • Oil in Houston :

      I had the same problem, it has to do with the size of the lenses – only solution is trial and error I’m afraid…

  9. I stopped wearing contacts regularly a few years ago and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My eyes feel better, and the last time I went to the eye doctor, they told me that my eyesight had even improved slightly in the intervening time. I buy super stylish glasses that I love wearing and wear those about 90% of the time. I keep a few pairs of disposable lenses in the cabinet to wear for things like formal events, long hikes, sunny days when I wear sunglasses, or once in a while to the office when I feel like I don’t want the distraction of glasses (for example, on days I have a big argument in court).

    • I’ve been thinking about moving back to glasses more regularly – currently I wear them about two days a week (including weekends) but the difference in comfort (and not constantly feeling there’s something on my eye…even when they’re out) is so noticeable.

      I just have to get over my vanity!

    • I also ditched my contacts for glasses most of the time. I tried pretty much every brand out there and could never find one that was comfortable to wear every day. The money you save on all those contacts can buy you another pair of frames so you you don’t get too sick of the same ones. I also keep a stock of daily throw aways for occasional use like the PP.

      BTW, I found out I am allergic to the Oasys type contacts. My doc said about 10% of people are. They hurt so bad after about an hour of wear that I wanted to gouge my eyes out. Just a warning for anyone trying them to make sure you take glasses with you for the day.

    • I have worn glasses from the age of 13 and only started wearing contacts at last year at 31. Peripheral vision is much better with them and overall vision is much sharper but I always get this tired feeling about 8 hours in. I only wear them occasionally and mainly in warmer weather or for outdoor activities. I don’t think people realise that contacts really do impede the breathing of your eyes to a certain extent. My eye doctor who also happens to be quite young also does not wear contacts all the time for similar reasons. Being sloppy does not help either, follow the instructions or you will have problems.

      @Frugal City Girl, If you dislike wearing glasses, get a pair that flatters your face shape and a stylish frame. Think of your glasses as a fashion accessory and don’t be afraid to experiment! Visit an eyeglass store or one of the chains like Target or Lenscrafters and try on different shapes or even colors. You can even have a 2 pairs of eyeglasses, an everyday one and a funkier one for weekends.

      • I forgot to add that getting an annual eye exam is also really important. Updating prescriptions can be expensive-especially if you have glasses AND contacts but it’s always best for your eyes in the long run. Plus, if any problems start they can be detected earlier.

  10. Jenny the Good :

    A couple of weeks ago, my eyes were so dry that when I opened my eyes one morning, my left cornea had fused to my eyelid. When I opened that eye, I ripped part of my cornea off. I had to go to the ER and the emergency ophthalmologist, and get two prescriptions for antibiotics. The pain was awful. I couldn’t wear glasses for two weeks. But I did get to wear a giant pair of sunglasses that fit over my prescription glasses, because I couldn’t bear to be around any light at all.
    Since then, I use Muro 120 gel every night and Aquify several times during the day. I also run a humidifier at work and in my bedroom. The eye doctor also told me to wear my contacts for only about 8-10 hours a day, and to take frequent contact lens vacations.
    My mother has dry eye syndrome and has had several corneal tears in her life. In addition to being very painful, they can also really mess up your eyes. I’m just now starting to take this stuff seriously.

    • OMG THIS CAN HAPPEN? Btwn this and Kat’s stories, I’m scared of my eyes now.

      • Jenny the Good :

        Yes. My friends and family were very impressed that I could hurt myself just by waking up.


      Quelle horreur, for reals.

    • Freaking Out :

      I had no idea this could happen. OMG. This is the scariest thread I’ve ever read. Contacts are coming out tonight and glasses are going on until allergy season is over.

    • Seriously, I’m wondering if this is how the zombie apocalypse will begin?!?!

    • AnonInfinity :

      WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT?!?!?!?

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. Omg.

    • I have severely dry eyes and my optometrist recommended Systane Ultra drops. They’re OTC and I use them twice a day and they work amazingly well.

      • Systane is what my doc recommends, too.

        Glad to know I’m screwed year-round, though. Winter was my one refuge from allergy season, but I’m basically glasses all winter because it’s so dry where I live. I had no idea this could happen. New things to have nightmares about!

      • My eye doctor recommended Optive Renew. I have seriously dry eyes when I wake up in the morning.

        I’ve also had this weird problem where my eyeliner goes bad and starts menacing all of my other makeup. Not really – it’s just starts to smell bad. One time, I used it after thinking I had wiped off the surface well enough and I got what wasn’t an infection but an immune reaction to the bacteria. Since then, if the eyeliner smells bad, it goes in the garbage.

        • Instead of tossing it, soak a cotton pad in alcohol and wipe the top of it thoroughly. You can also just cut off a few millimeters at the top. Ditto with lipstick.

          • I tried that and it didn’t work. I also figured it would only be taking chances with my eyes. The problem is that I have to mail order my eyeliner. It happened right before I left on a trip and I was able to find a new brand/type that I like and that doesn’t smudge below my eyes on a hot day.

        • How/where do you store your makeup? Keeping your stuff in a cool dry place is very important. Does direct sunlight, artificial light or heat incubate your cosmetics?

    • OMG I read the first sentence of that and I had to stop because the whole thing freaked me out….and I have a VERY VERY high tolerance for weird medical stuff!

    • This happened to me, too. I had to insert three kinds of prescription eye drops once an hour around the clock and go to the opthalmologist every day for a week. She said that many people don’t get immediate treatment and end up having to have a cornea transplant!

      • OMG for reals? Even when you were asleep at night? You had to wake up and put in drops?

        • For real. I was a total zombie and my husband was afraid I’d sleep through a dose, so he got up every hour with me. And then we had to be at the opthalmologist’s office every morning at 7:30 so I could be her first patient of the day.

  11. Oh Kat, a post after my own heart. I have the extra special problem of swollen eyes during allergy season, so I blink out my contacts, as well as triggering sinus pain from wearing glasses because of the way they rest on my nose. I’m thinking about moving to the desert where are are no trees or people or living things because ALLERGIES, YOU SUCK.

    I started taking Allegra today – for those of you who have taken it, how long does it take to kick in? I just have the regular Allegra, no D.

    • DC allergies :

      I have terrible allergies in the spring in DC. I am actually on a collection of different drugs to control everything: Pataday for the eyes, Flovent for the asthma, and Zyrtec and Flonase for everything else. I’ve found that the best way to deal with allergies is to get the medicine in your system before you have symptoms. This means that I started taking all of this stuff in early March because I knew this would be an early allergy season and things like Flonase take 1-2 weeks to fully build up in your system. The first dose of Allegra or any other OTC pill will take 1-3 hours to be effective.

      Another trick I use for itchy or dry eyes is to step in the shower, tip my head back, and rinse out my eyes with saline solution for a minute or two at the end of the day (after taking out my contacts, of course). It feels so good and gets out all the pollen and other crud that gets in there! It’s also a good idea to take a shower in the evening to wash off all the pollen that gets in your hair, or at a minimum change clothes so you’re not wearing pollen-infused clothing for longer than you need to. These are both especially important if I’ve been outside for happy hour or for a run and I’m covered in pollen.

      • Now I feel like I’m covered in invisible neon lime green pollen spores. I was able to get by the past few years without taking a pill for allergies but I didn’t realize that I was going to get hammered this spring. In addition to allergy injections, I’m now taking Allegra every day, Astepro nasal spray 2x a day and Aleve+/-pseudoephedrine as needed. Oh and proventil as needed for my lungs, too. I’m happy that I’m doing the allergy injections because they introduced my body to allergens way before the season started. Otherwise I would have been incapacitated by everything. I just really hope that the Allegra is effective enough for my eyes and skin. I actually smeared hydrocortisone all over my face last night because I couldn’t take it anymore. Ugh.

        • DC allergies :

          But you are covered in invisible neon lime green pollen spores! That’s what makes allergy season so hard…the stuff is just everywhere. On your clothes, in your hair, all over your house or apartment if you want to open a window and let in the fresh air. Seriously, showering, changing clothes, and rinsing out your eyes will make a big difference (for a few hours, at least!).

          You could also try Benadryl as a last resort for the itchiness (only at night so you don’t fall asleep driving or at work).

    • Anonymous :

      My husband had the worst seasonal allergies ever when we lived in the desert. Maybe you should just live on a yacht in spring!

      • I like the way you think. Me on a yacht, maxi dress, with no allergies. Sold.

  12. Stephanie :

    Thank you SO much for posting this… I should probably get my eyes checked out because everything you used to do I currently do. Oops. But rubbing my eyes is just so satisfying! :(

  13. As someone who doesn’t have allergies or excessively dry eyes, I have to say Visine’s Tired Eye Relief is one of my desk staples for surviving long hours reading in my dry office.

  14. long time lurker :

    I had a very similar thing happen to me, after a bunch of travel and late nights. My contacts felt blurry and would not stay in my eye, I was always rubbing my eyes, and I would wake up with my eyes swollen and sticky. It got so one eye was bugging me even without wearing my contacts. I went to an eye dr and received a diagnosis of “allergic conjunctivitis” and had to refrain from contacts for 1 month and do steriod/antibiotic drops multiple times a day. Luckily everything was fine after that.

    This forced me to get frames I actually liked. I now take at least one full day a week off from wearing my contacts, and if I am going to be on a plane or working very late, I carry my glasses with me so I can change at the first hint of irritation.

  15. eastbaybanker :

    I also do a terrible job of keeping track of the 2 weeks my contacts are supposed to last. I use them between 1 week and maybe 5? I just completely forget to switch them. Reading about all the bad things that can happen to my eyes has me freaked out! I think I better switch to daily disposables pronto.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Switch them every pay period – if you got paid today, it’s also a contact switching day.

    • What SFBA said, or set alarms on your phone to remind you, or do it on the same date (e.g. the 1st and 15th) every month.

    • yes, i used to never be able to remember, but my eye doc finally succeeded in putting the fear into me with scary stories. Once I got in the 1st / 15th habit, now it’s pretty easy. I sometimes forget for a day or two, but not more than that, as soon as i realize it’s the 17th, i’m like: Oh yeah! new contacts!

      Also, now that i realize how comfy my eyes are in fresh contacts, it’s so much easier to remember. Sometimes I toss them a couple days early, when i realize my contacts have become uncomfortable.

    • I used to do the pay period system, now I just make a note on my calendar.

    • I am bad too. Yesterday I had one rip in my eye and get stuck under my eyelid. That one was probably at 4-5 weeks. Part of my issue is that one may rip a few days early so I’m not on the same schedule with both contacts.

      • that is difficult when they are both different, but honestly, i am willing to lose a few days here and there to keep them on the same schedule. If one tears a few days before a designated “New Contacts” day, i just toss them both and put in two new ones. If it’s a bit after a designated “New Contacts” day, I keep them both till the next designated “New Contacts” day and toss them both and start over. If I did the math I might be wasting money, but they are cheap enough, and it is SO worth a few bucks to not have any of my dr’s scary stories happen to my eyes.

      • I mark on my calendar the day I get my period and the next day to change my contacts… because otherwise I will forget both things. I figure, if my short-term memory isn’t unlimited, I should devote it to the things I can’t write down as easily…!

    • I put alerts in my Google calendar.

  16. west coast girl :

    When I moved to California I fell in love with Bay Area, and out of love with the tree pollen-generating allergies. I had a terrible spell of allergies, Rx drop taking, then worse eye problems. It turns out I am deathly allergic to the preservative in the eye drops (wasn’t there a scandal about how some working woman at the FDA got conned into approving these when 10-15% of the population is allergic to it?). My eyes were so red and swollen and runny I remember a small child recoiling on the street–must have looked like a vampire to him. Plus the runny eyes caused a rash on the skin around the eyes. Altogether not my best look and truly miserable.

    Anyway I second the motion on nettles. Nettle soup clears my sinuses up. I never ever take eye drops except one called GenTeal (sp?) that has a preservative that disappears within a few minutes of use. And Allegra is my best friend in the Spring and Fall. Sometimes Benadryl at night is helpful–can’t take it during the day. Oh, yes, in a crises at a friend’s house out of town I learned that the children’s dose of Benadryl didn’t knock me out and suppressed the allergies enough to function.

    And got rid of the boyfriend with the cat, but that’s another story.

  17. It sounds to me like you have Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). This could be the cause of the bumps on the underside of your eyelid.

    If any of this sounds familiar, you might also find some dry eye relief from adding Omega-3 supplements to your diet.

    I have this issue with my eyes, and Omega-3 really helps. I’ve also given up entirely on contacts, and just invest in very nice eyeware, even if it costs a pretty penny. It’s on my face very day…I don’t have a jewelry habit. It’s worth it!

    • I had this and fish oil capsules cleared it up right away. I stopped taking them, but haven’t had any recurrences, thank goodness.

      Be careful with the fish oil, though, as it can also cause increased bleeding. My mom was taking a high doese for dry eyes and kept getting hemmorages in her eyeballs, causing the whole white to turn red. Not a good look.

  18. I can’t second this post enough. I caught a terrible eye infection earlier this year for similar reasons–new job, long hours, excessive contact wear–and did some pretty serious harm to my corneas. Fortunately, 6 appointments later, my 2 wonderful eye doctors were able to reverse all but a small amount of permanent damage.

    In addition to Kat’s recommendations about proper eye & contact care, I’d include this: if your eyes are red, stop wearing your contacts! I hate wearing glasses (and my pair at the time did not have the correct prescription), but contacts are what allow bacteria and viruses to grow. A couple days off from lens and the infection probably would have gone away on its own without causing any harm. Equally important, if your eyes are red and in pain, you really need to see an eye doctor immediately. I waited three days because I thought it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t want to take time off work–it turned out it was a very big deal and that I was going to have to take even more time off for having waited. Don’t make the same mistake!

  19. Always a NYer :

    I love Refresh eye drops for when my eyes get dry and irritated. They come in single-use containers and have been a lifesaver thoughout the years. And yes, I find myself wanting to rub my eyes as I type this.

    Side note – I’ve found that wearing eye makeup keeps me from rubbing my eyes. Mascara and eyeliner may not be the best for my eyes during allergy season but the vain side of me won’t mess up my makeup. My rational side has no problem rubbing my eyes sans makeup but that’s another story entirely.

    • Ha, I use makeup as a way from rubbing my eyes or picking at my face. Except sometimes it makes everything itchier, even if it was just fine. I should just live in a biohazard suit.

  20. OK, this entire thread totally justifies my decision to Never.Wear.Contacts and stick with glasses.

  21. The same thing happened to me last summer. I was away at a trial when my right eye puffed up, turned red and started burning. The sun drove me crazy and even with my glasses, I couldn’t see clearly for days. I went to a specialist who told me I scratched the heck out of my eye. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to wear contacts for over a month, which is just awful in the summer time. Eventually, after a lot of eye drops, my eye healed. I was wearing acuve 2 at the time, my doctor said it didn’t allow enough oxygen in and that it was killer for my dry eyes. I switched to air optix and my eyes feel much better. I try to use drops and avoid over wearing contacts because I never, ever want to go through that again.

  22. lucy stone :

    I had episcleritis last year that thankfully cleared up, but it meant no contacts for a month, no eye makeup for a month, etc. For a really pale girl with bad vision and saggy eyelids, this was not a great time for my self-esteem. Since then I try to be better about taking out my contacts at dinner time every night.

  23. Equity's Darling :

    Another thing is to remember to change your contact lens case every time you switch pairs! My eye doctor is all over that, because apparently at lot of bacteria accumulates in them.

    I use monthlys, so I change the lenses and my case every time I switch to a new pack of birth control.

    I only wear contacts for sports/gym going and when going out for drinks, because I’ve heard so many horror stories from excessive lens wearing.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Me too. I used to be a daily lens wearer, but staring at a monitor every day totally destroyed my eyes in contacts. My opthalmologist told me I had to cut back. Now I wear cute frames to work, and contacts for gym/hiking or if going out, or if it’s raining and I will be outside. I also swear by Refresh drops, which I put in at night. I always thought, and still think, that I look cuter in contacts, but I really don’t need to look “cute” at work. Health > Vanity.

  24. Does anybody have any great tips for minimizing allergy shiners? In addition to red itchy eyes, this allergy season is giving me horrendous allergy shiners that make me look tired and weary.

    • That’s why I started taking allegra, so that my eyelids would swell so much. Believe me when I say I look SUPER attractive right now.

  25. Related Eye-Health Threadjack: How Myopic or Hyperopic are you?

    Me: Left eye: -8 Right eye: -7 (distance correction needed)

    Result: I navigate on bat sonar. :-)

    • So apparently wearing contacts can actually effectively worsen your vision, and your vision can improve when you switch to glasses all the time. I used to be -450 with astigmatism in the left eye and -300 in the right. I quit wearing contacts due to severe, medical-intervention-needed dryness, and after 2 years I seemed to settle at -200 in both eyes with a slight astigmatism in the right.

      • I’d heard this.

        Vision can also improve when you switch from a sh*tty optometrist who tells patients to wear their fricking distance prescription *all the time* even if they are so myopic that they require a different (lesser) correction for reading distance.

        Shame on me for going to these stupid twits for so many years (from childhood to college-age), but shame on them for not answering my questions and literally dismissing my concerns as a “neurotic woman’s problem.”

        …but…. no shame on me for calling them on it, calling them frauds, and telling them that they were stupid, incompetent outdated quacks to their faces and never returning. I have since found a great optometrist who halted the creeping decline of my vision. But much of the damage is lasting– this current prescription (eyeglasses) is the best I’ll likely be, acuity-wise.

        • Ha. I had the opposite issue – a quack optometrist told me I needed two prescriptions (and two pairs of glasses, ordered from the shop attached to his practice, of course). After getting severe headaches from reading, I went to a second eye doctor who told me the “reading” prescription was way too low and that the other guy was either incompetent or a scammer.

    • Nearly Blind :

      I’m pretty close to you. -8 and -6.75. I’m so scared of driving at night.

      • I’m close to you all too —
        -8.00 and -6.50 (-1.75 cylindrical that eye).
        I honestly thought my sight was about as bad as you can be before they can’t even make contacts for it any more. I see I was way off in that assumption.

        I hardly ever wear my contacts any more. I’m lazy — it’s just so much easier to wear my glasses!

    • Hahah. I challenge anyone on this site to beat me–I’m a -13.25 in both eyes, and both with astigmatism. There’s a reason my contacts (which are a -10 and I only wear if I’m going out, not to work) are custom-made, and daily disposables don’t exist. Sigh.

      • lucy stone :

        Oh man, do I feel for you. I bet you pay out the rear end for glasses and contacts too. :(

      • Boston bound :

        Both of my eyes are around -11. Scary.

        Anyone else wear gas perms? I hear that these are the best lenses for curtailing one’s prescription. I tried soft lenses once but could not see clearly in them. I love my hard lenses.

        • Kelly in Chicago :

          I wear gas permeable lenses and I love them. I have had only minor changes in my vision in the past several years, and that includes law school and now practice where I wear my contacts for, routinely, 15 hrs a day. (I have always had gas permeable lenses since I was about 15.) I now wear my glasses only for an hour or so a day when I wake up and before bed, and then again maybe 2x a month all day. I have never worn soft so I can’t make a comparison, but I love my gas perms.
          Also, side note: I recently renewed my prescription and my glasses prescription finally increased (after about 5 years in my old frames) and I got my new frames from Zenni Optical and I cannot say enough good things about their quality or, significantly, their prices. I got 2 prescription frames for $34 including shipping! They even have a function where you can upload a front facing picture and virtually “try on” frames – it was quite accurate! Anyone in the market for new frames should check them out:

      • I am -10 on both sides. I am oddly comforted that someone with worse vision is out there, so thanks for posting, Meara.

        RE: Dry eyes. I went through a miserable time two winters ago, and I remember thinking: “Well, at least the daily weeping is keeping my contacts from abrading my corneas” (as has happened to me on two occasions).

      • Marie Curie :

        I’m -12.5 and -12.75. Never thought I’d find someone whose eyes are worse … I’m actually trying out contact now because after the last prescription “upgrade” my peripheral vision is now completely gone.

        • I do wear (and totally love!) contacts at night or if I’m going somewhere on the weekend–I usually feel like my vision is much better with them than with glasses, though I pay through the nose for good glasses also–at this vision it’s key to get the “sweet spot” in the just-right place.

          Last summer I found out another brand had started making contacts in my prescription, and that it was about 1/3 the price of the ones I’d had for a few years, so got my opthamologist to let me try them. Previously I had 3-month “disposables” that were about $250 for a year worth. Now I got 1-month disposables for about $100 for a year’s worth. YAY! But I’d still love weekly or daily–having enough to blithely toss them if they’re acting weird would be amazing!

          My sister wears gas perms (her vision is not quite as bad as mine, maybe a -9) because they’re better for your eyes, and she’s been wearing them for probably 15 years. I tried them in high school and just couldn’t get used to them.

    • Right eye: -8.5 spherical, -2.25 cylindrical
      Left eye: -3.25 spherical, -4.5 cylindrical

      My eyes did improve when I stopped wearing contacts.

    • -6.75 and -7. I am so blind that once I confused a stranger for my mom in the grocery store (she walked off and the woman had similar build). Have another condition that also creates some color weakness. Fun!

    • lucy stone :

      Left eye: -9.75 Right eye -8.5

      Left eye: -8.75 Right Eye – 7.5

      My fiance can get up, go to the bathroom, get the paper, etc, without his glasses. All I see is light without mine. :(

    • Mine are both at bat level around -12. It’s not pretty.

  26. Nearly Blind :

    OMG! I’m so glad (in a selfish way) that I am not the only one who has all these issues with her eyes! Dry eyes, contact lens overuse, rubbing my eyes to death – been there more often than I’d like. I’ve been trying to cut back on lens usage. I now alternate between lenses and glasses every other day. However, I find that it’s just my left eye that has a problem with lens-wearing (even though both my eyes are supposedly very dry according to the doc). Contact lenses just irritate the sh*t out of my left eye, and I have to constantly blink to readjust my focus and defog my lens. No surprise that I end up with a headache quite a few of the days when I wear lenses. And changing to a new pair of lenses doesn’t help. I am SO jealous of people who have perfect eyesight and don’t have to spend time or money on eye care stuff.

    Rant over.

  27. locomotive :

    This post is a great PSA. Most people don’t realize how big of a deal eye problems are until they get them (myself included)!
    Here’s my horror story: I wore contacts for 12 years, then suddenly for a few months my eyes were itchy and irritable and started producing gunk every time my contacts were in and this situation got worse and worse until I just couldn’t wear the contacts anymore. I assumed it was allergies but when I went to the eye doctor, I was told that it was something called giant papillary conjunctivitis and that my poor eyes were now allergic to the proteins my eyes would produce with contacts in, and i would never be able to comfortably wear contacts again and had developed severe dry eye from the past few months. NEVER wear contacts again! I have tried a few times while heavily medicating with Pataday (antihistamine drop) and it was torturous, I had swollen, barely able to open eyes for weeks afterwards.

    SO! PSA: please take care of your eyes. Take contact breaks, wear daily contacts (over 2 week ones), and if anything starts feeling off go get it checked out right away!! I now have to wear glasses forever because of my own negligence to some extent. I’m a pretty active person and this kills me seeing as I can’t do things like scuba dive, free climb over water, (mostly water sports) anymore :(

    • You can scuba dive and do water sports! They make prescription goggles and scuba masks! Don’t let your vision stop you.

  28. If your eyes are always dry, an optometrist can plug your tear ducts with a silicone plug. They’re permanent (but removable if you need them removed) and much easier than using drops every day.

    • Seattleite :

      Yup. Lacrimal plugs. If my own quack eye doctor had told me about them, I might have saved myself the expense and bother of RK surgery. I have them, and they made a huge difference. It’s a five-minute, not-very-uncomfortable office visit.

    • Actually I would advise EXTREME CAUTION with respect to this option. And please do see a Ophtalmologist, rather than an Optometrist.

      My eye horror story actually was the result of a hack-job lacriminal duct plugs placed by an optometrist, which resulted in 2+ years of constant eye issues and numerous surgical procedures and no one could figure out what was going on. One doctor had even suggested it might be a tumor(!!!) Finally, I saw a genius lacriminal duct specialist who had the brilliant idea to use a scoop-like device to clear my lacriminal ducts (a procedure you have to be AWAKE for). He ended up extracting the plugs and finding that they had deteriorated and basically took on the shape of my ducts, and I had developed an allergy to the duct itself. The swelling and scar tissue from all of this was so bad, that he had to surgically remove it. Now, I am pretty much all better, but it took YEARS, so just PLEASE exercise caution with this option!!!!!

  29. This is timely, because I have given up wearing my contacts completely lately. I don’t have allergies, but I just got put on a diuretic for intracranial hypertension, and it has the side effect of making my eyes dry.

    Also, I have had swelling in my optic disc in one eye for the last few weeks, which was causing a blind spot, and today I realized it has gone down enough that I have vision in that entire eye! So I’ll take dry eyes over partial blindness.

  30. This is a great post. I work in the eye care industry and I know a lot of my patients would appreciate this information from another patient, just like them. You have no idea how many times we see people just like you, asking for help with their own red eyes.

  31. A timely post as I’m sitting here with red, bleary eyes. I was diagnosed with dry eye syndrome 5 years ago and it’s been a PITA ever since. I do think allergies are a small component, but antihistamines (oral and topical eye drops) dry most people’s eyes out further and therefore aren’t the answer. Weekly allergy injections do seem to help, but not enough.

    It’s hard to cultivate a professional appearance at work when my eyes look like satan and reflex tears are constantly collecting in the corners.

    So yes, please wear your contacts judiciously and take care of your eyes!

  32. Also, Kat, you mentioned you were using single-use contacts for dry eyes. Sounds intriguing…could you share details?

    • I wear acuvue oasis contacts… Wear them once and throw em out. They’re supposed to be particularly “breathable” for dry eyes.

  33. Associette :

    Good post. We are all so similar on here… I was recently diagnosed with “swollen eyeballs” because I wore my contacts too frequently (nearly every day), and wore my two week contacts for a month or two at a time. Combine that with staring at a computer, and the space heater blowing in my face in my office, I did some serious damage to my eyes. Now I wear one day contacts and change those up with classes about two days per work week.

  34. NIUiceskatr :

    I have asthma and I was using Pulmicort (kinda like Advair) and Flonase (nasal spray) but we were planning to get preggy so my allergist switched me to Rhinocort instead of Flonase, as Rhinocort is safe for pregnant women. He also kept me on the Pulmicort too though. I also wear Acuvue Oasys 2 week disposables, and I’m very strict w/myself on changing to a new pair every two weeks. I just do it on the days my paycheck comes in which is also every two weeks, that is an easy way to remember :) In the fall, I had bad allergies so my eyes were getting red and teary and I thought it was the contacts, so I was switching pairs every few days or so, till I went to my eye doctor. I thought I was getting pink eye or something. Turns out it was a reaction to the fall allergens/pollen. So I used Patanol drops for a month and when the freeze started I was ok. I hope i dont have to start using it again in the spring!

    I have also started subscribing to the 3 month rule of tossing out mascara, and I wash my contact lens cases w/ water and antibacterial soap and let it air dry at least every other day. I used to work at an optician office so I saw the bad stuff that can happen to your eyes from allergies, being careless w/ contacts use, etc.

  35. I had extremely dry, red, irritated eyes for years. So much so I had to stop wearing contacts. The only thing that has worked for me, recommended by my eye doctor, is a fish oil daily supplement. I use Theratears Omega-3 supplement. It does take two to four months of taking the daily supplement to see results (for some reason takes that long to fully get into your system), but it’s the very best thing I could have done. My eyes are like new and can now wear contacts again.