Are your eyes itchy, weepy or swollen? You are not alone. It is estimated that approximately 20% of the population of the United States experiences the symptoms of allergies, and almost half of those people experience an eye allergic. Eyes are such an important part of how we see and experience the world, so swollen, red or itchy eyes can dramatically alter how we feel and how others perceive us.
Eye Allergy Symptoms
Eye allergy is sometimes difficult to diagnosis because it shares many symptoms with bacterial and viral eye infection or other eye complaints. Eye allergy symptoms vary from mild to serious and vision impairing, and will be different because of types of eye allergy.
1. Allergic Conjunctivitis
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is characterized by redness, itching and a clear watery discharge. This is the most common form of eye allergy and is linked closely to hay fever and other seasonal allergies. Perennial conjunctivitis is caused by year round triggers such as dust mites, pet fur and mold. People may have long-term dark circle around their eyes. These symptoms can come and go based on the presence of allergens.
2. Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis
This is a more serious form of eye allergy that can have lasting effects if not treated. Largely associated with eczema and asthma, this form of eye allergy is primarily found in boys and young men. It is characterized by photophobia (an aversion to light), thick mucus, significant tearing and itching. It is necessary to seek medical advice for this condition so that it does not impair vision.
3. Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis
Similar to Vernal keratoconjunctivitis, this form of eye allergy largely affects men with a history of allergic dermitis, but is most common in older males. It is usually characterized by severe itching, burning, redness and the production of thick mucus which can stick the eyelids after a night’s sleep. If untreated, this condition can result inthe scarring of the cornea and damaging the delicate membrane.
4. Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis
This form of allergic eye condition is associated with the use of contact lenses. This is a severe irritation and a form of contact allergic conjunctivitis in which fluid sacs form in the upper eyelid and cause swelling, itching and redness. This form of conjunctivitis can also cause tearing, blurred vision, mucus discharge and the feeling of foreign bodies in the eye. This may need medical treatment or can make it impossible to wear contact lenses during the affected period.
Treatments for Eye Allergy
1. Use Drugs
- Topical antihistamines & decongestants. These include antihistamine eye drops which inhibit or block the histamine receptors in the conjunctiva, preventing swelling and other symptoms of the allergy reaction.Decongestant remedies do not stop itching but relieve the redness of the eyes by reducing the swelling of the blood vessels.Side effects of antihistamine drops can be mild burning or stinging, but compared to oral antihistamines, they are far superior in effectiveness as they can be more direct and effective. Decongestants are not advised for people with narrow-angle glaucoma.
- Topical mast-cell stabilizers. Effective for vernal conjunctivitis, this treatment prevents the release of chemical mediators of inflammation from the mast cells. This treatment can be used even in mild cases and in children more than 2 years old, due to its low side effects. The downside of this treatment is that it needs to be applied 4 times a day and you must stick to it.
- Topical anti-inflammatory drugs.Anti-inflammatorydrugs work by reducing swelling and redness, and can be the most effective topical treatments. These drugs include nonsteroidal and steroid drugs. The nonsteriodal based anti-inflammatory drugs work well in treating itchy eyes. The steroid based anti-inflammatory drugs are more effective, but prolonged use of steroids can have wide and long-lasting side effects.
2. Take Allergy Shots
When you are unable to effectively avoid offending allergens, it can be possible to take regular allergy shots administered by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. This is often a last resort for long suffering patients with severe and lasting allergic reactions.
3. Avoid Irritants
In hay fever or high allergen season, try your best to stay indoors. Pollen counts are a useful indicator of when to avoid frequent and prolonged time outside. Mid-morning, later in the afternoon and early evening are particularly bad times for those sensitive to such allergens. Things that can make it easier to go outside include wearing sunglasses and keeping your car windows closed.
4. Don't Rub Eyes
Eye rubbing can introduce foreign bodies and cause infection, so avoid rubbing eyes. Rubbing your eyes can also make them appear redder, puffier and cause tearing or other damage.
Preventions of Eye Allergy
- When cleaning floors, avoid dry cleaning methods that may stir dust. Try mopping or using a wet cloth to wipe dusty areas instead.
- Close your windows and use air conditioning if possible. Air-conditioning vents and filters should be kept clean, and if using fans, do not use window fans as they bring allergens such as pollen, dust and molds.
- Wash hands after petting animals and be sure to wash and change any effected clothing after visiting friends with pets.
- Regularly clean moist areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and basements and keep indoor mold levels down. A dehumidifier may be an option if you have access to one.
- Keep pets out of the house as much as possible. If this is not possible, keep the bedroom pet free so that while you are sleeping you are not being exposed to these allergens.
- Replace carpeting with hard wood, particularly if you have pets.
- Keep dust mites to a minimum by using mite proof covers for bedding and wash bedding frequently in hot water.
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