Don’t Suffer Through This Allergy Season!
Like all allergies, ocular allergies occur when the immune system identifies an otherwise harmless substance as an allergen. This causes the immune system to overreact and produce antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE travels throughout the body to cells causing chemicals to be released which in turn causes an allergic reaction. In the eye, this is called allergic conjunctivitis as the allergen irritates the conjunctiva: the thin, clear membrane covering the white of the eye and the inner portion of the eyelids. The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis can be very annoying and bothersome, but pose little threat to eyesight. Unlike a bacterial or viral conjunctivitis, generally known as ‘pink eye,’ allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), (Link) the most common causes of allergic conjunctivitis are seasonal allergens such as mold spores or pollen. However, some patients can suffer year-round if they are sensitive to things like dust mites, smoke, perfumes, or pet dander. Those symptoms resulting from outdoor allergens tend to be worse than indoor causes.
Don’t think you have to live in bubble or find a new home for Fluffy yet. Most of the time, symptoms can be managed by a few simple changes in routine or lifestyle, as well as with over-the-counter or prescription strength medications. Avoidance can be very effective at decreasing symptoms if you know a particular trigger. In addition, wearing a wide brim hat and/or sunglasses outdoors can help protect the eyes from airborne allergens. Rinsing the eyes with a sterile saline solution after exposure may help reduce the effect an allergen has on the ocular surface. Over-the-counter oral antihistamine pills and topical antihistamine eye drops often provide needed relief that is easy and cost effective for short-term treatment. If symptoms are chronic, stronger medications such as corticosteroids or immunotherapy may be necessary. Continuous monitoring of the condition while on these medications may be necessary because of an increased risk of certain side effects. Consulting with an eye care professional can often provide much needed relief to allergy symptoms that could be interfering with enjoying your favorite activities. Call us today!