Eye allergies are extremely common, with an estimated 20% of the U.S. population already experiencing them on a regular basis. Just like other allergies, eye allergies begin when the immune system identifies a normally harmless substance as something that can be harmful to your body. It responds by producing antibodies that travel to cells to protect them, but one of the by-products of this process is the release of chemicals called histamines. It’s these histamines that cause the symptoms that we associate with an allergic reaction.
There is a range of symptoms that can occur when you suffer from eye allergies, with the most common including the following:
Puffy, swollen eyes
Eyes that are itchy or irritated
Sensitivity to light
In many instances, eye allergies are accompanied by nasal symptoms too, including a stuffy or itchy nose and excessive sneezing, or by a tickly throat or coughing. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with our eyecare team for an assessment, as we will be able to confirm an eye allergy diagnosis with just a few simple tests.
Allergies occur when our bodies react to a usually harmless substance. Everyone is different and therefore what is an allergen to one person will not cause a reaction in another. Many people who suffer from allergies find that their allergic reactions are triggered by multiple different allergens.
Allergens can be found both indoors and outside, with some of the most common causes of allergies being identified as:
Pollen, from grass, trees, flowers, and ragweed
Dust and dust mites
In some instances, it’s also possible for the eyes to reach to allergens that don’t come into contact with the eyes at all, but instead with another part of the body.
Prevention is always better than treatment, and if you can determine the underlying cause of your eye allergies, avoiding the allergen that triggers an allergy episode is recommended wherever possible. For example, you could wear protective goggles when mowing the lawn or cleaning or switch to eye cosmetics that don’t irritate you. Pollen counts are usually highest in the morning and early evening, so you could try and avoid being outside at this time or wear wraparound sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
However, where it’s not possible to avoid your allergy triggers, fortunately, there are treatments that can minimize the effects that they have on your eyes. There is a range of different options to choose from, including:
Artificial tears. These act like natural tear film and help to rinse allergens out of the eyes. They can also hydrate eyes that feel dry as a result of your allergy.
Decongestants. Decongestants aren’t only good for treating colds. They contain antihistamines, which work to counteract the effect of histamines that are responsible for causing your allergic reaction. Decongestants are available as eyedrops as well as pills and topical treatments.
Oral antihistamines. In some instances, patients may be recommended to take oral antihistamines to counteract their allergy symptoms. These are available over the counter as well as by prescription but should only be used on the recommendation of your eye doctor.
Corticosteroids. Steroid eye drops are normally prescribed if other treatment methods have proved unsuccessful. However, they can only be used short-term and have numerous side effects which means that you will need to be closely monitored while using them.
Immunotherapy. The very last line of treatment for eye allergies is immunotherapy. This involves the administration of a series of injections that contain minuscule amounts of the allergen in order to build up your tolerance to it. Immunotherapy is carefully controlled by your eye doctor.
Eye allergies can be extremely frustrating and even debilitating. Thankfully, with the proper care from your eyecare team, you don’t need to suffer unnecessarily. Contact our offices in Ft. Mitchell, KY, or Dry Ridge, KY today to schedule a consultation to discuss your needs.