Allergy is a condition which occurs when our body’s immune system becomes sensitive to substances that may be otherwise harmless and overreacts to fight against it.
The substance to which our immune system overreacts is called as allergen. Eye allergy is a condition when our eyes are irritated after coming in contact with certain allergens. It is also called as allergic conjunctivitis. It is not contagious.
What Causes Eye Allergies?
- Allergens can be present indoor or outdoor. Allergens which are commonly found outdoor are grass, weed and tree pollens. Allergens that may be present indoor are pet dander, mold and dust mites.
- Cigarette smoke, diesel fumes may act like irritant and worsen your allergy symptoms.
- If there is family history of allergy then one is susceptible to develop eye allergy.
- If one frequently suffers from allergic rhinitis then he or she is more likely to have eye allergy.
Eye allergy could be seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergy occurs at certain time of the year when there is more pollen count in the air especially in early spring through summer and in autumn. Perennial allergy is found throughout the year when it occurs due to air pollution, pets, dust mites and molds.
Eye Allergy Symptoms
When conjunctiva (the transparent membrane that covers lids and sclera) is exposed to allergen, mast cells produce a substance called histamine to fight the allergen, causing symptoms.
- Eyes become red and swollen.
- Excessive watering of eyes is seen.
- Eyes look puffy especially in morning.
- There is increased sticky discharge from eyes.
- Itching in the eyes and burning sensation may be there.
- Sometimes eye allergy is associated with allergic rhinitis. Patient may have running watery discharge from nose, frequent sneezing, malaise and occasionally low grade fever.
Diagnosis: Diagnosis is done on the basis of medical history and eye examination. Slit lamp microscope is used for examination of eyes.
Eye allergy can be confirmed by presence of eosinophils in the conjunctival tissue. Small scraping of conjunctival tissue is taken for testing.
How To Treat And Prevent Eye Allergies?
Get your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other conditions.
- Eye allergy is generally treated with antihistamines.
- Artificial tear drop relieves irritation and dryness and may also help to wash out the allergen.
- Decongestant eye drops can be used to relieve the symptoms.
- Applying cold compresses to the eyes may help to reduce the severity of symptoms. Separate and clean compress should be used for each eye.
- Splashing your eyes frequently with cold water will help to lessen the irritation and redness.
- Stay indoors when pollen count is high in air. Usually pollen count is found to be high in mid-morning and early evening. While stepping outdoor wear goggles to protect your eyes. Close the windows of the car.
- Replace carpet with tiles or wooden flooring which is easy to clean. Use wet mop to clean the floor instead of sweeping with broom.
- Change your bed after few years.
- Change the bed sheet regularly.
- Cover your pillow with allergen-impermeable covers.
- If possible stay away from pets.