How Allergies Affect the Eyes
Allergies are an immune system response that causes a series of bodily responses; similar responses can occur with the eyes when the body perceives something as harmful despite the fact that it might not be harmful at all. For instance, while dust is pretty much everywhere and most people can tolerate its presence without any kind of reaction or immunological response, some individuals may find the eyes begin to produce an excessive amount of tears, or the eyes may develop mucus due to excessive sensitivity to the presence of dust. Researchers have found a familial link in association to eye allergies and thus the allergies may be, at least in part, hereditary.
Allergies incite other potential eye and health conditions too, including asthma and pink eye (conjunctivitis). As per information made available by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, over 22 million people in the US deal with allergies and their baneful effects currently, including allergy triggered conjunctivitis.
The most common symptoms associated with the onset of allergies include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Breathing difficulties
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy nose
- Red eyes
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Sinus irritation
Substances that can incite an allergic response are allergens. There are different types of allergens, some of which are airborne and include pet dander, mold, pollen, and dust. The latter allergens can cause irritation of the nose and your eyes when you come in contact with them. Alternative types of allergens include things like bee stings or some food products, but the latter allergens rarely affect your eyes in the somewhat aggressive way that airborne allergens can affect them. Additionally, your eyes may react to the exposure of certain manufactured products and the ingredients therein, including products like eye makeup, eyeliner, mascara, and other cosmetics. Finally, it is possible that your eyes may react with an allergic response when you use eye drops containing antibiotics.
Treatment of Eye Allergies
There are several methods for dealing with allergens responsible for triggering an allergic response in the eye(s). For the most part, all methods of handling allergies are conservative and include avoidance, select medications (including prescribe and over-the-counter therapies) and immunotherapy. Here we will explore each treatment more in-depth.
One of the easiest methods for dealing with allergens that irritate the eyes is to avoid the allergens whenever it’s possible to do so. To reduce issues with itchy eyes, you must keep your home environment free of dust and pet dander. If you are allergic to pollen, it is best to remain indoors and to keep the air conditioner on as well, particularly during allergy season when the pollen count is high. If you happen to have a central air conditioning unit for home use, the filter should be of high quality and changed frequently to keep airborne allergens under control.
When avoidance of eye allergens fails to offer relief, the next step is the use of allergy medicine. The least expensive treatment option is, of course, over-the-counter allergy treatments, but should such medications fail to offer relief, you will need to speak with a primary care physician or eye doctor about getting a prescription to treat your eye allergies. Prescribed medications tend to be more powerful and, therefore, are more effective in treating difficult to treat allergy conditions.
Several types of eyedrops exist, all of which can prove effective in dealing with the symptoms incited by exposure to eye allergens. You can use eyedrops as a form of eyewash, simply flushing debris from the eye and minimizing the exposure to dust and other airborne allergens. Some eyedrops contain additional ingredients that offer a defense against allergen responses including mast cell stabilizers, decongestants, and antihistamines.
Decongestants: This ingredient is comprised of vasoconstrictors, which help in contracting the blood vessels in the eyes, thereby minimizing issues with eye redness. Decongestants only deal with the allergen-produced symptom and do not alleviate the cause.
Extended use of eyedrops containing decongestants is not a good idea: This is because the eye(s) can develop a dependency on decongestants in order to constrict the blood vessels in the eye(s). The latter process is rebound hyperemia, and the condition actually causes your red eye condition to get worse over the course of time.
Antihistamines: This ingredient helps in diminishing the runny nose, eye itchiness, sneezing, and watery eyes that airborne allergens produce.
Mast cell stabilizers:
This is an eyedrop ingredient that helps deal with swelling, inflammation, and eye irritations resulting in redness. This ingredient works a lot like antihistamines. The primary difference between mast cell stabilizers and antihistamines is that the latter works immediately and mast cell stabilizers offer extended, long-term allergy symptom relief.
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Also referred to as NSAIDs, are over-the-counter or prescribed medications that offer relief for inflammation and pain. Additional medications include corticosteroids, which can also help in reducing inflammation and swelling. Sometimes, with the guidance of a physician, you may find you use more than just a single medication for dealing with your eye allergies.
In order to benefit from immunotherapy, you will have to make an appointment with an allergist. Through this treatment method, you receive a series of injections of allergens in miniscule amounts so that your body gets a chance to develop immunity. The process is gradual.
Contact Lens Use & Allergies
During allergy season, if you are wearing contacts you may find it a lot more difficult to tolerate the lenses in your eyes. When allergens are irritating your eyes, the use of contacts seems to only make things worse, and you will experience mild to moderate discomfort. When airborne allergens come in contact with and attach to your lenses, it can trigger an allergic response. When the allergens trigger a response it can cause an overabundance of tear production that, in turn, binds to contact lenses and exasperates the symptoms you are experiencing.
When discussing how to treat your allergies with your eye doctor ask about the use of eyedrops offering allergy relief and get advice on how to keep your contacts free of allergens. You have to be careful about the products you use because some medications have the ability to damage and permanently discolor contact lenses. Thus, it’s imperative you speak with your doctor before you begin using over-the-counter eye allergy treatments.
Alternatively, you have the option of investing in disposable contact lenses for daily use. In doing so, you are using the contacts for a single day and minimizing your contact to allergens that may have become stuck to the surface of your lenses. What’s more, disposable lenses are less likely to form deposits that prove irritating to the eyes and that can increase your already existing discomfort.