Many of us experience the unpleasant symptoms associated with allergic eye disease, or allergic conjunctivitis. Our eyes react to irritants (allergens) by producing histamines. This causes inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin film of tissue that covers the eye and inside of the eyelid. Commonly, our eyes can feel like they are itching, tearing, and burning. They may also appear red and swollen. Occasionally, the vision may seem blurry or light sensitive. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, which can indicate the treatment needed.
Grass and ragweed typically contribute to the most common type, which is seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. More often, we are symptomatic in the springtime and fall. Year-round symptoms may be triggered by animal dander and dust mites. There may also be signs of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, where a person’s nasal passages are inflamed. Symptoms may include runny nose, post nasal drip, nasal congestion, and sneezing.
For mild symptoms, a person may find relief by holding a cool compress over the eyes, and the use of artificial tears every few hours. It is also beneficial to take an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce the histamine response and improve symptoms for the eyes as well as nasal passage. There are a few over-the-counter options that may improve eye itching. They will not, however, prevent symptoms from occurring.
For more significant symptoms, a mild prescription steroid eye drop may be recommended. In addition, there are prescription antihistamine or antihistamine/mast cell stabilizer combination drops. These can help prevent as well as relieve the symptoms associated with the allergies.
For contact lens wearers, changing cleaning solutions or frequency of wear may help reduce symptoms. Hydrogen peroxide-based solutions remove debris from the lenses that may contribute to inflammation. Daily disposable lenses provide a fresh, clean lens each day, also preventing the inflammatory reactions. Eye drops may be recommended to be used before and after putting the contacts in each day.
Seasonal as well as year-round allergy symptoms can significantly affect daily life. There are many over-the-counter and prescription options available. For those noticing any of these symptoms, our doctors can recommend ways to improve a person’s quality of life.