Do you have red, itchy, teary eyes? If so, you may have eye allergy, also called allergic conjunctivitis. This occurs when something you are allergic to irritates the conjunctiva. This is the delicate membrane covering the eye and the inside of the eyelid.
Like all allergies, allergic conjunctivitis starts when the immune system identifies an otherwise harmless substance as an allergen. This causes your immune system to overreact and eventually produce chemicals which cause an allergic reaction. In this case, allergic reactions include eyes that water, itch, or become red or swollen. The most common causes of allergic conjunctivitis are seasonal allergens such as pollen and mold spores. Common triggers during the early spring are tree pollen. As we get into later spring and summer, grass and weed pollen can trigger these symptoms. Indoor allergens such as dust mites and pet dander can also cause eye allergies year-round.
Not all red eyes are due to eye allergies. Unlike conditions such as pink eye, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. However, red, itchy, burning and puffy eyes can be caused also by infections and other conditions that can threaten eyesight. If your symptoms are related to an eye allergy, chances are you will have problems in both eyes. Whereas, red eyes caused by infections can be in one or both eyes. That is why it is best to see your doctor to determine if your symptoms are from allergies or something else.
So, what do you do if you have allergic conjunctivitis symptoms?
The first step toward relief from annoying eye allergy symptoms is a proper diagnosis. Allergists have specialized training and experience to accurately determine what is causing your symptoms and identify the best treatment approach. When untreated, allergic conjunctivitis often leads to eye rubbing that can cause damage to your cornea, so don’t ignore your symptoms.
If indoor allergens are causing your eye allergy symptoms, avoidance is the key to relief. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to reduce dust in your home or try keeping pets out of the bedroom to reduce exposure to their dander.
If pollen and other seasonal allergens are causing your misery, here are some helpful suggestions:
1) Wear a hat with a wide brim to reduce the amount of allergen that blows into the eyes.
2) Sunglasses can also help reduce the amount of allergen that lands in the eyes.
3) Because your hands may have traces of allergens on them wash them frequently and don’t rub your eyes.
4) If your eyes are red and scratchy, remove your contacts and wear glasses instead.
5) Apply saline eye drops to the eyes after being outdoors to wash away allergens from the ocular lining.
6) Put a moist washcloth in the freezer for a few minutes and apply it to your itchy eyes to reduce itching and swelling. Refrigerate your allergy eye drops; the chilled drops will soothe your eyes.
Over-the-counter antihistamine pills and eye drops are often used for short-term treatment of eye allergy symptoms. However, prolonged use of certain eye drops may actually make your symptoms worse. Your doctor may prescribe stronger medications if your symptoms are long-lasting. Many people with eye allergy symptoms have allergic reactions in other parts of the body too, like the nose, lungs, skin. If this is the case, then your doctor may prescribe other medications such as antihistamine pills, nasal sprays, topical creams or asthma medications to relieve these symptoms. Depending on what is causing your eye allergy symptoms, immunotherapy (allergy shots) can be very effective in providing long-term resistance to the triggering allergens.
So, don’t let itchy eyes control your life! Put your annoying eye allergies out with help from one of our well trained and experienced Allergists!