Allergies and Your Eyes
Eye allergies often occur in cases of seasonal allergies. If red, itchy, watery eyes and swollen eyelids accompany sneezing and a runny nose, you may be experiencing eye allergies.
In some instances, eye allergies can cause pink eye or conjunctivitis and other eye infections.
Causes of Eye Allergies
The substance that a person is allergic to is known as an allergen. These are usually innocuous substances that the body mistakes for toxins and in turn produces histamines. Histamines are the leading cause in allergic reactions. Pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are the most common causes for eye allergies, as they are airborne.
Food allergies and insect bites/bee stings are not usually detrimental to the eyes and do not generally cause eye allergies.
Relieving Your Symptoms
If you need relief from your itchy, watery or swollen eyes, you should avoid allergens, remove your contacts (if you are a contact lens wearer), and make use of eye drops and medication, both over the counter and prescription depending on your doctor’s recommendation.
The best defense against eye allergies is to simply limit your exposure to the substance that triggers your symptoms. Do everything possible to protect yourself from the offending substance (for example, check the pollen count during allergy season or wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from the allergen).
The surfaces of contact lenses can attract airborne allergens. Consider using standard eyeglasses during allergy season if you have what is known as hay fever (seasonal allergies).
Over the counter allergy eye drops are available to ease the symptoms of eye allergies. This is because eye allergies are relatively common and certainly unpleasant, so if you need relief from your watery, itchy eyes you may be able to simply use eye drops from your local pharmacy. Ask your doctor what eye drops or medication is right for you. If your symptoms are more severe, you may need to consider prescription medication.
If your symptoms are severe and your doctor sees fit, they may want to prescribe medication for your eye allergies. These medications come in both eye drop and oral forms. Some of the medications available are antihistamines, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and steroids.
Antihistamines act to block the receptors that histamines bind to when you come in contact with an allergen. These medications work better as preventative medications than after the fact. Antihistamines relieve the runny nose and itchy, watery eyes produced by allergies.
Decongestants work to lessen the swollen nasal passages and increase airflow through the nasal passages so you can breathe easier. Additionally, red eyes are relieved by decongestants by reducing the size of the blood vessels on the white of the eye. There are combination antihistamine/decongestant drugs available. Their brand name usually ends with “-D.”
Mast cell stabilizers change the mast cells and prevent them from releasing histamine and any related secretion in allergic reactions. It may take a few weeks for the complete effect of this type of medication to become apparent. Because of this, it may be better to use mast cell stabilizers as a preventative measure for allergy season.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs, come in eye drops that may be prescribed to reduce swelling, inflammation and other symptoms that accompany seasonal allergies, or hay fever.
In very severe cases, corticosteroids may be prescribed; however, there are potential side effects from prolonged use such as high eye pressure, glaucoma and cataracts. Because of this, they are typically prescribed for a short duration of time.
There is also a treatment known as immunotherapy in which an allergist injects the patient with small amounts of the substance they are allergic to, and subsequently more amounts until the immune system builds up a tolerance for the allergen.
Consult Your Doctor
If you have eye allergies, itchy, red, watery eyes or swollen eyelids and need relief may trouble you. Talk to your doctor today about what option may be right for you and your symptoms. Schedule a visit with Dr. Ghosheh of Laser for Eyes to discuss your treatment options for your eye allergies. If you have further questions, take a look at Dr. Ghosheh’s medical blog for further information on eye allergies and other eye conditions.