About Eye Allergies
Allergies of different sorts are incredibly common! Worldwide, up to 40% of the population have sensitization (IgE antibodies) to environmental proteins, and close to 10% of adults suffer from hay fever symptoms every year. Eye allergies, caused by either seasonal or year-round (perennial) triggers, lead to redness, tearing, and clear secretions, but particularly eye itching. This is a major cause of suffering, as well as school and job absenteeism and reduced productivity.
In the mucus membranes of the eyes and nasal passages, white blood cells attach to mast cells causing a release of histamine and cytokines which make local blood vessels dilate (redness) and leak fluid (swelling and clear discharge). Itching is the most common and specific symptom of allergic conjunctivitis. Rubbing your eyes will only make this process worse. Instead of rubbing, visit your friendly eye allergy specialist at Ticho Eye Associates in Chicago Ridge, IL, Tinley Park, IL, and/or Munster, IN for prompt diagnosis and treatment.
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Treatment for eye allergies
As is the case with any allergy, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to limit your exposure to the allergen, though it goes without saying that is typically not simple or even achievable. Patients who wear prescription contacts and experience eye allergies can sometimes get some relief by switching to disposable daily contacts because airborne allergens can build up on longer-wear lenses. In addition, several nonprescription eye drops exist that are formulated to minimize eye allergy symptoms, but for some patients, they provide very little relief. If you've tried over-the-counter methods without success, prescription eye drops may be needed.
Eye Allergies: Seasonal or Perennial?
Eye swelling often occurs at night, often from bedroom and household exposure to allergens like dust mites or pet dander. Seasonal allergies are more likely to occur from spring to fall when high pollen and mold counts are higher.
All types of allergic conjunctivitis, whether seasonal or perennial, acute or chronic, involve elevated immunoglobulin E triggering of mast cells in the conjunctiva to degranulate or release histamine and cytokines, which in turn trigger redness, swelling, and itching.
Cytokines are proteins, which regulate cell activation, hematopoiesis, apoptosis, cell migration, and cell proliferation. If that seems complicated, just remember that cytokines are important in virtually all aspects of different immune responses. White blood cells are the main producer of cytokines, although they may also be made by other cell types.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between allergic conjunctivitis and infectious pink eye. Eye allergy tends to produce prominent itching with clear secretions, while bacterial conjunctivitis typically causes crusting with yellow or greenish discharge.
Relief for Eye Allergies
Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis is best done as a three-pronged approach:
Symptomatic relief (cool compresses, artificial tears, topical decongestants)
Pharmacological suppression of inflammatory response (antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, corticosteroids)
Ideally, you should avoid any known eye allergens and irritants. This can be quite difficult when the triggers are airborne or pervasive in your environment. However, regular and thorough cleaning indoors may reduce pet dander and dust mite levels. Many vacuuming systems are equipped with HEPA filters which can decrease your allergen exposure.
Over-the-counter decongestant eyedrops (with or without antihistamines) can help reduce allergic eye redness, but they are not designed for regular or repeated use. Oral antihistamines tend to cause ocular dryness, so are not a great primary choice for allergic conjunctivitis. If redness has not cleared within a couple of days or is worsening, it’s time to get checked by an eye professional.
Never use corticosteroid eyedrops without first having a thorough examination. Corticosteroids drops can worsen bacterial infections, trigger herpes growth, cause glaucoma, and even accelerate cataract formation. If you suspect that you have eye allergies visit an eye specialist at Ticho Eye Associates in Chicago Ridge, IL, Tinley Park, IL, and Munster, IN.