If your eyes are red and itchy, you may be in the midst of dealing with an eye allergy. Our understanding of how to treat eye allergies has improved a lot in recent years, and there are now many different treatment options available.
If you have eye allergies, you may be experiencing symptoms like itchy eyes, redness, or watery eyes. In some cases, an eye allergy can be an ocular emergency. Learn what may trigger your allergies, as well as how to treat them from the eye care professionals at Clarkson Eyecare.
Eye allergies can come on without warning. An allergic reaction occurs when you come in contact with an allergen, such as dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, or pollen.
Some allergies source from what are known as perennial allergens, which means the allergen can be around any time of year. These are generally things that are found inside, like pets, dust or indoor mold. Others are seasonal in nature. Seasonal allergies can be aggravated from sources such as pollen, ragweed and grass.
If you're allergic to something, your body releases a chemical known as histamine. Histamine is a chemical that causes blood vessels to swell and become red. This also causes itchiness and wateriness to the eyes.
Some signs that may indicate that allergic conjunctivitis is brewing include:
Of course, just because you have these symptoms does not automatically mean you have an eye allergy. It's also possible that such symptoms may be the result of an infectious condition such as bacterial or viral conjunctivitis.
To determine whether you indeed have allergic conjunctivitis, an eye doctor will take a full history and examine your eyes. They may also recommend seeing a primary physician to do allergy skin testing to determine what you may be allergic to.
If it is determined that you have allergic conjunctivitis, you will likely have a range of treatment options available. One of the best things you can do is to try to avoid the trigger in the first place. This, of course, can be much easier to do for something such as pet dander. Pollen, however, is much more difficult to avoid. You can minimize your exposure to pollen by staying indoors, keeping windows closed, and using air conditioning.
Likewise, for a mold spore allergy, be aware that this can be worse in damp weather. So, it may be a good idea to avoid going out on rainy days when spores are likely in the air. You should also prevent any fallen leaves or compost from collecting too close to the house.
To avoid dust mites, you may need to replace your drapery and furniture with washable options, or get furniture made from leather or vinyl instead of cloth. You may also try steam cleaning carpets and making sure bedding and clothing are washed in hot water regularly.
When you can't avoid an allergen, you can lessen or prevent an allergic reaction by:
Washing your face after any contact with an allergen
Frequently washing your clothes and bedding
Keeping your contact lenses and lens case clean
Showering at bedtime
Using a cool compress to soothe your eyes
Using artificial tears to lubricate the eye surface and wash away allergens
Avoiding irritants like cigarette smoke
Using over-the-counter agents, such as antihistamine or decongestant eye drops or even oral antihistamines. Keep in mind that while oral antihistamines can be great for immediate relief, they can ultimately dry out your eyes.
If your eyes are still irritated after using over-the-counter medication, you may need to see your local eye doctor for a stronger treatment, including the following:
Steroid eye drops to reduce swelling
Mast-cell stabilizing eye drops can help keep symptoms under control by preventing the release of histamines in the eyes. These are usually only available with a prescription and include drugs called Alomide® (lodoxamide), Alocril® (nedocromil sodium), Alamast® (pemirolast potassium),and Crolom® (cromolyn). These work best when taken before in the weeks leading up to allergy season.
Some newer prescription drugs combine antihistamines with mast cell stabilizing drops. These include Elestat® (epinastine), Zaditor® (ketotifen), or Patanol® (olopatadine hydrochloride). These drops are potent against itching, redness, burning, and tearing symptoms.
Contacting an allergist is the most effective way to treat mild to severe conditions caused by allergies. Some conditions you shouldn’t ignore include:
Allergic Rhinitis – also known as hay fever – is an allergy that causes symptoms like sneezing, congestion, an itchy nose, and a sore throat.
Dry Eye is a common condition that occurs when tears can’t provide enough lubrication for your eyes. This tear instability will lead to inflammation and damage to the eye’s surface.
Pink Eye (seasonal allergies conjunctivitis) is an inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid. Pink eye is typically caused by bacteria, allergic reaction, or – in babies – an opened tear duct.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact an eye care professional at Clarkson Eyecare.
In many cases, avoiding triggers and dealing with allergic conjunctivitis will become second nature to you. Though irritating, with all the treatments available, any allergy-induced discomfort can likely be overcome. If you have any signs of allergic conjunctivitis, reach out to your eye care practitioner to determine the best approach for you.
Find a nearby Clarkson EyeCare and schedule your eye exam today.