Eye Problems Eye Allergies

Experts estimate that more than 50 million, or 20 percent, of Americans suffer from allergies, and many of these people complain of eye irritations or sensitivity. Keep reading to learn about eye allergies and to get tips on allergy relief.

What are Allergies?

Allergic conjunctivitis is a reaction that affects the eye’s conjunctiva, the thin layer of skin covering the eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis comes in two different forms: seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) and perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC).

Both SAC and PAC can be triggered when a person is exposed to an irritating allergen. In other words, when someone who is allergic to a particular substance comes into contact with that substance (the allergen), he experiences an allergic reaction.

In the case of SAC, allergies are seasonal in nature and often clear up when the season ends. For example, if a person is sensitive to tree pollen, spring may be an especially sensitive time. However, as soon as spring passes, allergy symptoms often clear up.

With PAC, however, a person is sensitive year round, often to indoor items such as dust mites, pet dander and cockroaches. Those with PAC may have a particularly difficult time if they are also sensitive to seasonal allergens, such as pollen.

Common Allergens

While the list is endless, some common allergens include:

  • dust
  • eye make-up
  • facial products, such as lotions
  • grass
  • pet dander
  • pollen
  • weeds.

Signs and Symptoms of Eye Allergies

If someone suffers from eye allergies, common symptoms he may exhibit include:

  • blurred vision
  • burning sensation in the eyes
  • itching
  • redness of the eyes
  • tearing.

Diagnosis of Eye Allergies

The easiest way to diagnose eye allergies is to visit your ophthalmologist. Often, he can diagnose your condition by looking at your eyes and listening to your symptoms. However, if an exam is needed, your ophthalmologist may use a special microscope, called a slit lamp, to check for dilated blood vessels and swelling. In severe cases, your ophthalmologist may perform a scraping of the conjunctiva to check for eosinophils, cells that are associated with allergies.

Eye Allergy Relief

The simplest way to prevent eye allergies is to try to avoid known allergens whenever possible. This includes switching to hypoallergenic cosmetics and toiletries. If this is not possible, discuss treatment options with your ophthalmologist. He will be able to recommend appropriate allergy treatments including topical remedies, natural allergy remedies and prescription allergy medication.

Successful at-home treatments include:

  • applying cold compresses to the eyes to reduce swelling
  • applying topical creams or ointments, such as a mild corticosteroid cream
  • taking over-the-counter allergy medications as directed to reduce eye allergy symptoms
  • using artificial tears or eye drops to flush out allergens.

Prescription allergy medications, eye drops and allergy shots are also available but must be prescribed by a medical your ophthalmologist or allergist.

For those who prefer more natural options, there are a number of natural allergy remedies available including vitamin therapy, herbal allergy remedies and energy-based allergy relief. Consult a naturopath or alternative medicine practitioner for more information.

In addition, allergists recommend that people reduce the amount of allergens in their living environment. To achieve this, clean and dust regularly, eliminate standing water and damp areas that can attract mold, use barriers and filters and avoid pet dander and other irritants.

Discuss the various options available with your health care practitioner to determine which solutions best suit your specific eye allergies and lifestyle.