How Ocular Allergies Affect Your Eyes
Allergies are a very common cause of red, irritated, and itchy eyes. Although it usually does not lead to adverse problems, it is quite annoying and uncomfortable and can get in the way of enjoying the outdoors during the spring and summer. Explained below are some basics of allergic manifestations in the eyes.
Causes and Symptoms of Eye Allergies
Allergy results from an immune hypersensitivity to something in the environment. When the allergen is encountered, symptoms can range from mild to severe, with anaphylaxis being a medical emergency. In the eyes, symptoms include redness, itch, swelling, and watering. Allergens can include particles that are touched, ingested, inhaled, or injected (in the cases of bee stings or medication), but ocular allergies most often result from tiny bits of allergens like pollen or animal hair touching the eyes. Eye symptoms commonly arise along with nasal symptoms like runny or stuffy nose and sneezing.
Types of Ocular Allergies
More mild eye allergy types include seasonal and perennial allergies. Seasonal, as the name suggests, takes place only during certain seasons, like the spring and summer when grass and pollen are in the air. Perennial can take place year round in response to animal hair and dust mites, but may be worse in the fall due to more of these allergens being present in the home.
More severe types of ocular allergy include vernal and atopic types. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis usually affects young boys and remits by the time they become late teenagers. It is more common in warm, dry climates, is associated with conditions like eczema and asthma, and also usually comes on in the late spring and summer. In its symptoms, it is essentially a more severe type of eye allergic response, including additional pain, light sensitivity, mucous discharge, and involvement of the cornea at the front of the eye. Atopic keratoconjunctivitis is similar to vernal but develops in adulthood instead of childhood and is even more severe. It affects all of the front structures of the eyes along with the lens inside the eye, and can lead to intense inflammation and scarring in all of these structures.
Treatment and Prevention of an Eye Allergy
Treatment for mild forms of eye allergy includes avoidance (if possible), cold compresses to soothe the eyes, generous artificial tear use, eye drop or tablet form anti allergy medication (i.e. antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers), and vasoconstrictors. Sometimes, a topical steroid or NSAID may be used to rapidly calm down inflammation while the less potent anti allergy medications can exert their more gradual effects.
For vernal and atopic forms, treatment can include all of the above with the addition of lid wipes to treat eyelid inflammation, antibiotics to prevent secondary infection of damaged tissue, and long term immunosuppressants in the case of atopic disease if other methods are not helping enough.
Our eye doctors at EyeDocs Family Eye Care in Brookville, OH excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye disese. Call our optometrists at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to be evaluated for eye or ocular allergies. Our eye doctors, Dr. Kyle Maxam and Dr. Cara Wampler, provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Brookville, Ohio.
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