Nothing is more irritating than the feeling that there is something in our eyes. It’s normal for our eyes to get watery sometimes. However, if your eyes become itchy, red, and swollen then you may be experiencing allergy conjunctivitis or ocular allergy, commonly known as eye allergies.
We all hear people say that our eyes are the windows to our soul and it reflects our emotions and our state of mind. However, this will not be true if our eyes are red, swollen, watery, and itchy from an allergic reaction. Eye allergies occur when the eyes react to an allergen that causes irritation to the eyes. It would then produce a substance called histamine to fight off the allergen. This would result in the eyelids and conjunctiva—the mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids— to become red, swollen, and itchy.
Severe allergic eye symptoms can be very upsetting and can be a common reason for frequent visits to the allergist, ophthalmologist, and even the emergency room. Eye allergies can pose little threat to eyesight other than temporary blurriness. But if your symptoms don’t improve, it is better to call your doctor.
Like any other allergies, eye allergies start when the immune system identifies an otherwise harmless substance as dangerous. This causes our immune system to overreact and produces antibodies that cause an allergic reaction. The reaction will then manifest around your eyes. Eye allergies are common during summer or spring because these are the seasons that have high pollen counts. However, indoor allergens such as dust mites and pet dander can also cause eye allergies all year-round.
There are several types of eye allergies: seasonal, perennial, vernal keratoconjunctivitis, atopic keratoconjunctivitis, contact allergic conjunctivitis, and giant papillary conjunctivitis.
Eye allergies share symptoms with other eye conditions so it is important to have an accurate diagnosis. Immediately consult an allergist or ophthalmologist who can review your medical history and symptoms. Your allergist may conduct some tests in order to pinpoint or reveal if you really have an allergy and if so, what causes it.
The golden rule when it comes to managing allergies is to avoid the allergens that trigger your symptoms. As much as possible, stay indoors when pollen counts are at their highest—usually during the midmorning and early evening. Wear glasses or sunglasses when going out to minimize the amount of pollen getting into your eyes. If something is caught in your eyes, don’t try to rub them. This will only irritate and make your condition worse.
When staying inside your house, make sure to keep your windows closed, and use air conditioning. Clean your pillows, comforters, and mattresses to reduce the accumulation of dust in your bedroom. You can also use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity low and eliminate the musty odor in your house. If you have pets, wash your hands after petting them. If possible, keep it outside your bedroom so you will not have a lot of exposure to pet dander while you sleep.
There are certain medications that you can avail when you get allergic reactions. Nonprescription or over-the-counter eyedrops and oral medications are commonly for the short-term relief of some symptoms. You can buy artificial tear drops to help relieve eye allergies temporarily and take decongestants to reduce the redness in the eyes. Oral antihistamines may also help relieve itchy eyes. If symptoms do not become better even with eye drops or medicine, immunotherapy may be an option. In immunotherapy, you get shots containing tiny amounts of the allergen and the dose gradually increases so that your body becomes immune to the allergies.
It is important to note that most of the allergens that trigger eye allergies are airborne, so you can’t always avoid them. That is why it is important that you visit a doctor who can diagnose your condition and determine the right treatment for you. Brazos Valley Allergy & Asthma Clinics is located in the south-central Texas region and provides professional allergy, asthma, and immunology services to clients at numerous locations in the Brazos Valley region. Visit one of their clinics to learn more about eye allergies and how to find relief.