We all know generally what allergies are – but do we really understand them? Allergies are overreactions of our immune systems to external substances, which may be harmless.
For people with allergies, the response after exposure to allergens is the release of an inappropriate amount of histamine which causes the symptoms of allergies.
When physicians or literature talk about allergies they usually refer to seasonal rhinitis, an inflammation of the nasal passages. But for many, the biggest problem presented in allergies may be their eyes (often referred to as ocular allergies) more than their nose. This condition is often referred to as seasonal conjunctivitis most commonly caused by pollen irritation.
Types of eye allergies
Different types of eye allergies exist and the allergic reaction to the eye often causes different types of inflammation of the eye referred to as conjunctivitis.
Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a seasonal allergy of the eye, which can also affect the cornea. This type is the most commonly found in children and young adults.
What causes allergies?
Atopic keratoconjunctivitis is similar to the above but usually occurs in older patients who have a history of eczema. This form is not seasonal and can cause extensive damage to the cornea and conjunctiva if it is not controlled.
Hay Fever conjunctivitis is the sudden autoimmune reaction to a specific substance. This type of allergy is usually known as seasonal allergic conjunctivitis?.
Allergic reactions to medications – some people may react strongly to certain medications such as penicillin and or preservatives in lubricating eye drops.
Allergic reactions to contact lenses. Contact lens allergies occur when people react to the contact lenses themselves or the proteins in the tear film that binds to the surface of the lens. Ask your doctor to prescribe you ultra-smooth contact lenses with discounts for achieving all-day comfort and avoid allergic reactions.
Pollen is probably the most common cause of ocular allergies and is released into the air by trees, plants, flowers, grasses, and weeds.
These allergens are strongest in the spring and fall but can cause puffy watery eyes all year round. Other common eye allergens include pet hair (especially cats), mold found in most rooms, pollution and dust mites. The list of eye allergens though cannot be limited just to this list. Each person has his or her own type of allergy and this list includes only the most common.
Symptoms of eye allergies include:
- Foreign body sensation
- Discomfort wearing contact lenses
- Discharge from the eye
As with any eye, disorders don’t try to diagnose your condition on your own. Should you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms for a longer period of time you should see an ophthalmologist to have your eyes thoroughly checked.
You may then need to go through a series of allergy tests to find out exactly what allergens you are reacting to.
Cool compresses and rewetting drops often help to reduce symptoms. For people with mild symptoms over the counter, antihistamines can counteract the histamine-induced symptoms. For severe allergic conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe medications that will be directly applied to the eye such as topical antihistamines, vasoconstrictors or steroids.
The best prevention is to avoid the culprit!
- Wash your hands to avoid spreading pollen or other allergens to your face and eyes.
- Use rewetting drops to dilute the allergens in your eyes.
- Wear sunglasses
- Keep windows closed and use air conditioners but avoid dry air, which can worsen the symptoms.
- Make sure to not extend the wear period for colored contact lenses, that can be for up to 2 weeks.
- Ensure proper cleaning of your contact lenses.