- 1 What are eye allergies?
- 2 What are the symptoms of eye allergies?
- 3 What are the causes of eye allergies?
- 4 Diagnosis of eye allergies
- 5 How to avoid allergens?
- 6 How to treat eye allergies?
- 7 Magrabi’s advice
What are eye allergies?
Eye allergies, known medically as allergic conjunctivitis are very common. When any irritating substance (known as allergen) affect the eyes, it leads to eye allergy. Ironically, the allergen itself rarely causes the symptoms of eye allergy, in fact the process by which the eye defends itself against this allergen is what makes the eye go red, puffy and itchy.
The main difference between eye allergies and eye infection is that it doesn’t spread from person to person! Unless the eye allergy is left untreated and secondary bacterial infection takes place!
What are the symptoms of eye allergies?
Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva due to allergic causes; it is annoying and ugly more than they are dangerous. Unless eye allergies are left untreated! its symptoms include:
- Red eyelids
- Pink eye
- Itchy eyes
- Extra sensitivity to light
- Swollen eyelid
- Puffy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Eye discharge
- Nasal allergy symptoms like running nose and frequent sneezing.
What are the causes of eye allergies?
Eye allergies by definition is an immune response to a foreign body (aka allergen). This harmless antigen usually triggers no immune response. But in some people, allergens trigger an inflammatory response to fight it. This response depends on an inflammatory reaction cell known as mast cells; this cell releases a substance called Histamine among other substances to fight off against the allergen. These substances cause most of the eye allergy symptoms.
- Pet fur.
- Smoke and secondary smoking.
- Make up.
- Contact lenses.
- Certain food.
- Insect bites.
- Hay fever
- Atopic dermatitis.
- Hereditary causes.
- Seasonal changes.
Diagnosis of eye allergies
If you have eye allergies only, then your ophthalmologist is the one who will check, diagnose and treat your eye allergy. But if you have accompanying symptoms like nasal allergy and/or atopic dermatitis, then an allergist, dermatologist and an ophthalmologist should all contribute to your treatment plan.
Usually you start with your ophthalmologist to check for eye infection and inflammation.
It is a spot-on diagnosis, but finding the cause is what makes the diagnosis challenging. So, your doctor will ask all about your latest change in daily routine to discover the allergen. For example, getting a new cat, changing your contact lenses type, moving to a new house, etc. Family and medical history are important arms for correct diagnosis.
Sometimes your ophthalmologist will check your eyes through a slit lamp to confirm his/her diagnosis.
An eye specialist could also take a superficial scrape off the conjunctiva to check for the exact type of white blood cell causing the inflammation, if there are other differential diagnosis other than allergic conjunctivitis.
Prevention of eye allergies!
Preventing eye allergies depend on one thing: Allergen Avoidance!!!
After you know what caused the allergy, avoid it by all costs in the future!
How to avoid allergens?
Since allergens are mainly foreign bodies, then you have to avoid exposing yourself to them. This includes first knowing what is your triggering allergen, as not all people are allergic to the same thing. Some are allergic to pollens while other are allergic to pets and other are allergic to cheap makeup!
According to each allergen, you can do the following:
- Pollens: avoid going outdoors in pollen season., and minimize going out in the mid-mornings and early evenings. If necessary, wear glasses to prevent them from going into your eyes.
- Pollution: also avoid going outdoors, keep your apartment sealed by closing the windows firmly and always keep the air conditioning on for humidity. Don’t forget to clean you’re A/C filters regularly.
- Mold: mold grows in high humidity, so if you keep your home’s humidity at 30-50% you can avoid their growth. Cleaning your bathroom and kitchen more often is advisable. Some recommend a dehumidifier for better results
- Dust: dust and dust mites are very annoying to avoid. So please pay attention to the cleanliness of your bedroom, bedroom covers and pillows. Use non allergic covers and always clean your sheets on high temperatures. If you are dusting your house then avoid brooms and use damp mops or hoovers to stop dust from disseminating to the air.
- Pets: relocating your pet to a new home is the best option, but of course not all people can let go of their pets after all they are family! So, Try keeping your pet outdoors as long as possible and don’t let them inside your bedroom. Always wash your hand after playing with your furry friends and wash the outfit you were wearing while you were petting your friend as soon as possible.
Tip: Never rub your eyes! This means more irritation, complications and time to recover!
How to treat eye allergies?
What if you already suffered from eye allergy, how is it treated?
In this case, eyedrops and medications are your best option.
These tears mimic your natural tears and they wash off the allergens from your eyes. They can also treat dry eyes. They don’t require prescription as you can buy them off the counter but please don’t use them more than 6 times a day.
Decongestants (eyedrops with antihistamines)
Since the main cause of the redness of the eyes in eye allergy is congestion caused by release Histamine from mast cells, then decongestants (that contain anti-histamine) can do the trick of reducing this redness. They can be bought off the counter too, use them for a couple days without prescription but is advisable to visit a doctor first.
They are helpful especially in itchy eyes, but overusing them may worsen eye allergy symptoms.
These are eyedrops that contain both antihistamines for itchiness and mast cell stabilizers for redness and the burning sensation. They can be used twice daily.
Eye drops that contain corticosteroids relieve most allergy symptoms but they must be used under medical supervision.
If you tried all of the mentioned remedies to no avail, then consider immunotherapy shots. Where you are exposed to controlled tiny amounts of the allergens. Increasing the dose gradually till your body no longer consider it an allergen. Of course, this is an in-office treatment. Never attempt it alone.
Eye allergies are very annoying symptoms, although they are not serious but it can keep you from living your life normally. Avoiding the allergen is the first line of treatment. Visit your doctor as soon as you feel the itchiness and the burning sensation. He/she can diagnose it, treat it and tell you how to avoid any future allergic attack.