Although most allergies are associated with coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose, allergies can also affect the eyes. Eye allergies also called ocular allergies or allergic conjunctivitis, are typically an immune response to a stimulant in the environment. They may cause temporary blurriness with no real long-term vision problems; however, as eye infections and other disorders may have similar symptoms to eye allergies, a medical professional should be contacted if problems persist. Here are the types, causes, symptoms, and treatments of eye allergies.
Types Of Eye Allergies
The two main types of eye allergies are seasonal and perennial. Seasonal allergies are more common than perennial. They occur at certain times of the year, such as in early spring and autumn, and are caused by allergens in the air, such as pollen from trees, weeds, and grass, along with mold. Perennial allergies occur all year long and are caused by triggers such as dust mites, animal or pet dander, and bedding feathers. The easiest way to determine which type of allergy is present is to pay attention to when symptoms arise.
Learn about the process of an allergic reaction to a trigger next.
The Process Of An Allergic Reaction
Eye allergies occur as a result of an immune system response to a stimulant or an allergen in the environment that typically does not cause problems for other individuals. An allergic reaction occurs when an allergen or an irritant comes in contact with the mast cells in an individual's eyes, resulting in the release of histamine and other substances that cause the tiny blood vessels in the eye to leak. This causes the eyes to become red, watery, and itchy.
Continue reading to uncover the full details on the various causes behind eye allergies in individuals next.
Eye allergies are caused by allergens in the air, both inside and out of the home. These may include mold, smoke, dust, pollen from ragweed, grass, and trees, and pet dander. Other causes may include reactions to perfumes, drugs, and cosmetics or body products. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, some individuals may experience an allergic response to chemicals in eye drops and even allergies that do not come in contact with the eye, such as foods or insect bites. Since the causes of eye allergies are incredibly varied, it is crucial for individuals to pay close attention to their surroundings and what they were doing when their symptoms struck. Otherwise, it may be near impossible for doctors to accurately determine what is causing their eye allergy to occur.
Discover the major symptoms of eye allergies next.
Symptoms of eye allergies include sensitivity to light, temporary blurriness, burning or tearing of the eyes, and red, swollen, or itchy eyes. The good news for patients is symptoms of eye allergies are not usually dangerous and may go away on their own or as soon as the exposure to the irritant subsides. If eye allergy symptoms accompany nasal allergies, such as a stuffy nose or sneezing, then additional symptoms may occur. These can include headaches, a sore throat, coughing, swollen eyelids, difficulty swallowing, and an itchy throat.
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An allergist can determine if an allergy is present or if a more severe eye condition may be the reason behind a patient's symptoms. Many symptoms of eye allergies can be treated at home; however, if symptoms persist or become severe enough to impact vision, an allergist can conduct several tests to make a proper diagnosis. Tests usually include an eye examination with a microscope to determine swollen blood vessels under the eye's surface. An allergist may also gently scrape the conjunctiva to see if a particular type of white blood cell is found.
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At times, the body reacts naturally to allergies by releasing histamine, a compound in the body that triggers blood vessels to dilate, forcing the walls of blood vessels too narrow and unusually permeable. Histamine causes symptoms such as watery and itchy eyes accompanied by a runny nose. Antihistamine medication contains allergic reactions by blocking the connection between body cells that produce allergic response and histamine compounds. They are most effective in alleviating itching and take time to calm redness and swelling in the eyes. Individuals may find the medication either in the form of oral tablets or eye drops. Oral medications may tag along with sleepiness, mild stinging of the eyes upon use, and headaches as side effects. However, these medicines provide longer-lasting relief.
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Decongestants target reducing the redness in the eyes after an allergic reaction and act by constricting blood vessels in the eyes. They do not, however, aid in alleviating itching or any other eye allergy symptoms other than redness. Most of the time, physicians will recommend coupling decongestants with an antihistamine to relieve itchiness as well. They are typically available over-the-counter in the form of drops or sprays, as well as pills. They are preferred for short term use, as prolonged use of these medications may cause re-occurrence of eye redness that may persist even after discontinuation. Doctors recommend the use of decongestants for no more than two to three days.
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Medicated Eye Drops
Since eye allergies are a common occurrence, there is a wide range of brands for the non-prescription eye drops. Usually, most are for mild treatments formulated to treat eye redness, itchiness, and watery eyes triggered by allergic reactions. They are easily accessible and less expensive compared to prescription eye drops. Most over-the-counter brands are suitable, though patients who are unsure about what to choose can ask for assistance from a pharmacist. Those who are dealing with severe symptoms may wish to consult a doctor and obtain a prescription-strength version of medicated eye drops.
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Corticosteroids are effective in relieving eye allergies, although they are used as last resorts after other treatment options fail. Normally, they are used for severe symptoms such as extreme inflammation, swelling, and redness. They are best used under the guidance of an ophthalmologist because they can increase the risk of bleeding if used on the wrong candidates. With corticosteroids, there are significant risks attached to long-term treatment. Patients may suffer side effects such as cataracts and elevated pressure in the eyes after long-term use. In the worst scenarios, elevated pressure in the eyes progresses into glaucoma, damage of the optic nerve, or loss of vision. Steroid eye drops are effective for short term use.
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The best way to prevent eye allergies is for individuals to avoid their triggers. Those who are allergic to pollen will want to consider staying indoors when pollen counts are high during the mid-morning and early evening hours. They can also run the air conditioner, close the windows, and should avoid window fans, as these can attract mold and pollen. Eyeglasses and sunglasses can be worn to block allergens outdoors. Individuals can limit their exposure to dust mites by washing bedding frequently and using allergen-free pillowcases. They should also clean floors with a damp mop instead of sweeping and set humidity at home below fifty percent.
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Individuals with eye allergies who cannot control their symptoms with prevention, eye drops, or other medications may want to seek relief by using immunotherapy or allergy shots. Immunotherapy shots work similarly to a vaccine because they contain a tiny amount of common allergens. As the dosage gradually increases, the individual's immune system learns how to deal with the allergens until they no longer cause symptoms upon exposure. Immunotherapy shots are not recommended for patients with weakened immune systems. Of course, it is important to note an allergy shot is not a one shot, permanent solution. Even when the patient has built up their immunity, they will need to eventually resume getting the shots if they want to continue with it, as the effects can wear off.
Get the details on natural remedies for eye allergies next.
Natural remedies for eye allergies can be quite helpful for individuals who do not enjoy dealing with medication, as well as for those with quite mild allergies where medication may not even be necessary. For instance, turmeric has been shown to act as a good decongestant to relieve some symptoms linked to allergies. Supplementing with butterbur has an excellent track record for alleviating pollen allergies due to its natural antihistamine properties with no sleepy side effects. Fish oil has also been shown to reduce allergic reactions due to its ability to lower the levels of leukotrienes (a compound linked to allergic reactions) in the body.