Eye allergies are very common. With the onset of ragweed season, you may be starting to have some of symptoms of eye allergies:
- Red, swollen or itchy eyes
- Burning or tearing
- Light sensitivity
What Causes Eye Allergies
Small molecules, or particles, called allergens can come in contact with your eyes. If you are allergic, the allergens cause the release of histamine. Histamine causes the common symptoms of itching, redness, watery eyes, etc. Allergens are typically particles which are normally harmless. Histamine is only released if you are allergic to a particular allergen.
Histamine can really make you sneeze, too.
“Antihistamines” work by neutralizing the effects of histamine. There are many ways “antihistamines” can work to relieve the symptoms of allergies.
Types of Allergens
Pollen from grass, trees and ragweed are common allergens. There are all types of allergens around us:
- Pet hair/dander
- Preservatives (in eye drops)
Here’s a link to check the pollen count in your area.
How to Diagnose Eye Allergies
An eye allergy is usually straight forward to diagnose. We will take a thorough history, including a medical history and your family’s history of allergies. Using the magnification from a slit-lamp, we will look for characteristic signs of eye allergy, or allergic conjunctivitis.
Eye allergies to something like ragweed pollen, or some other air-borne allergen, usually affect both eyes.
Treating Eye Allergies
The easiest treatment for any allergy is to avoid whatever irritates your eyes, but this is not often practical as in the case of ragweed.
If you are allergic to pollens, keep your car and house windows closed and use air conditioning to limit your exposure. Pollen counts are highest in the morning and early evening. Avoid windy conditions outside and use of fans inside – conditions where pollen can get stirred up.
Allergies to pet dander can be tempered by keeping your bedroom pet free (and dander free), frequent vacuuming and mopping, and consider hardwood or tile floors. Carpets tend to trap the pet dander and hair.
Dust and dust mite allergies can be limited by using allergen-reducing sheets, covers and especially pillow cases. Wash your bedding frequently with hot water.
Most eye allergies are treated successfully with topical eye drops. Most anti-allergy eye drops reduce the amounts of histamine released in response to the allergen. There are both over the counter and prescription drops available.
For more difficult conditions, your doctor may prescribe oral medications, steroids or even allergy shots.
We look forward to seeing you.