Eye allergies can be caused by the same irritants that cause sneezing and a runny nose. The symptoms typically include red, itchy, watery eyes as well as swollen eyelids. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should consult with an eye specialist to receive an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
To give you further insight on the causes, symptoms and management of eye allergies, Downtown Eyes shares more information below.
What Causes Eye Allergies?
Allergens the triggers for allergic reactions. Common indoor allergens are dust mites, pet dander and mold, while outdoor allergens include pollen from grass and trees. Perfume, cigarette smoke and diesel exhaust can also trigger allergic reactions. In some cases, cosmetics and eye drops may also cause allergic reactions.
Eye Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms of eye allergies typically include redness, itching, burning and clear, watery discharge. If you experience any of these symptoms, get in touch with your eye doctor. If the symptoms are accompanied by eye pain and thick or mucus-like discharge, you may be dealing with something more serious — so don’t hesitate to contact your eye clinic.
Eye Allergies vs. Eye Infections: How to Tell the Difference
The main difference between eye allergies and eye infections is the underlying cause. Eye allergies are caused by allergens like dust, pollen and pet dander, while eye infections are brought about by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. The symptoms of an eye infection are usually more serious and often include pain, sensitivity to light and thick, mucus-like discharge.
Eye allergies are not contagious, although they may be a recurring problem depending on your environment. An infection, on the other hand, comes with a risk of damaging your eye or spreading it to others. In both cases, it is crucial to practice proper eye and hand hygiene.
What Can Be Done to Relieve Eye Allergies?
There are preventive measures you can take to minimize the risk of suffering from eye allergies. Certain medications can also help relieve the symptoms.
If you want to avoid triggers of your eye allergy, observe the following practices:
1. Wear eyeglasses or sunglasses when outdoors. This will help keep the pollen out of your eyes.
2. Wash your hands after touching pets.
3. Keep your windows closed during pollen season. Use your air conditioning, and make sure your air filter isn’t clogged with dirt.
4. Use mite-proof bedding so that you can minimize your exposure to dust mites. Consider running dehumidifier to reduce the risk of mold growth.
There may be days when you have no control over your environment, but don’t worry because there are nonprescription medications that you can use to relieve your allergies. These include eye drops and antihistamines.
1. Eye Drops – You can choose among several brands of non-prescription eye drops to relieve itchiness, redness, and watery eyes. These eye drops are good for relatively mild symptoms.
2. Antihistamines – Your body responses to allergens by releasing histamine, a substance that dilates blood vessels and makes the walls of blood vessels permeable. This then results in a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Antihistamines reduce such effects by blocking the attachment of histamine to the cells in your body, which produce an allergic reaction.
In other cases, prescription medication may be necessary. These medications are usually more effective, and they include eye drops (decongestant, mast cell stabilizer, etc.), allergy shots and non-sedating oral antihistamines.
Decongestants – Decongestants shrink swollen nasal passages to enable easier breathing. They also reduce the size of blood vessels on the white of your eye in order to relieve red eyes.
Mast Cell Stabilizers – These take weeks to take effect, so they are often prescribed before allergy season starts as a preventative measure.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – NSAIDs are eye drops that can be prescribed to reduce swelling, inflammation and other symptoms of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (hay fever).
Steroids – Corticosteroid eye drops can be prescribed to relieve acute eye allergy symptoms. However, take note that these are prescribed for short-term use only. Side effects of long-term use of these eye drops include glaucoma, cataracts and high intraocular pressure.
Allergy Shots – These are also referred to as immunotherapy, a treatment that involves being deliberately “infected” with small amounts of allergens to help you build up immunity and thereby reduce your allergic reactions over time.
Your eye care specialist and allergy specialist will recommend the best approach to your needs.
Eye Allergies and Contact Lenses
Allergy season is especially difficult for contact lens wearers. This time of the year, it’s common to experience discomfort while wearing contacts. Those who switch from standard soft contact lenses to silicone hydrogel contacts may also become allergic to their new contacts.
Experts say that the eye allergies are not due to contact lenses themselves, but to the substances that accumulate on the surface of the lenses. Some lens materials attract deposits more quickly than others.
Having a contact eye exam can alleviate all your worries, so make sure to visit your doctor especially if you plan on taking any medications. Your eye doctor can guide you in making even the toughest allergy season manageable.
Of course, feel free to stop using your contact lenses for the meantime and switch to wearing eyeglasses during allergy season. Eyeglasses with photochromic lenses are recommended to reduce allergy-related sensitivity to light and protect your eyes from airborne allergens. You may also opt for daily disposable contacts so that you can avoid the buildup of allergens and debris on the surface of your lenses. If allergies continue to bother you, discontinue wearing contact lenses and reach out for your trusty pair of glasses.
If you experience symptoms of eye allergy or infection, get in touch with the eye doctors at Downtown Eyes immediately. Our experts are knowledgeable and equipped to handle a range of eye conditions, and we can ensure high-quality service that’s tailored to your needs. Call us at (612) 333-EYES (3937) or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.