If your eyes are itchy and watery lately, you could already be battling spring allergies. But it can be difficult to tell whether you're suffering from allergies or are fighting something else.
Thankfully, some local doctors now have a new way to find the answer.
Getting pricked by dozens of tiny needles might not be your idea of a good way to spend your time, but Gary Sonja hopes it leads to a more enjoyable spring.
"My eyes were red, itchy and scratchy," Sonja said.
The Brandon man says his ophthalmologist could not figure out whether he was suffering from allergies or some other eye-related problem.
"Trying this ointment or that ointment and having no success," Sonja said.
Sonja's doctor sent him to Vance Thompson Vision, where doctors have begun testing for allergies that specifically affect your eyes.
"A lot of allergy sufferers may only have symptoms of ocular or eye irritation, redness and those types of things," Dr. Alison Tendler said.
During the test, a doctor applies an extract of an allergen to your skin by pricking it. He or she then waits to see if your skin reacts.
"Quick test. It takes about three minutes to actually perform. It takes us about 15 minutes to get the results back," Tendler said.
The testing is also geared toward specific allergens in our area.
"Across the country, there are different subsets of allergies that might be particular in their region, so it's specific to us in our region," Tendler said.
Tendler says it's important to know what you're allergic to, not only because it can help you deal with your symptoms, but it can also help doctors treat other eye-related problems.
"In order to help treat the people with ocular surface disease well, we also need to know what they're allergic to and how that's impacting their ocular health," Tendler said.
Sonja's test results show he's allergic to ash trees. While he's going to try to avoid the allergen, he says it will be difficult.
"I'm outdoors quite a bit. I can tell that during certain times of the year, I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing, but I like to be outside," Sonja said.
The testing is covered by most insurance companies.
In extremely rare situations, you can have a severe allergic reaction to the test itself, which is why it's performed under a doctor's supervision.