Eye Allergies

by Jennifer Diaz, M.D.

Eye Allergy (Allergic Conjunctivitis)

In general, allergies occur when your immune system has an overreaction when in comes in contact with something in the environment that would not be bothersome to most people. With eye allergies, the surface of your eye comes in contact with an allergen (like pollen or dander) and produces an inflammatory response resulting in itching, redness, burning and clear watery discharge. Most eye allergies are seasonal and occur during the spring, summer and/or fall, although animal dander and dust may also be triggers.

Eye Allergy Symptoms

  • Itching
  • Redness (usually both eyes especially with seasonal triggers)
  • Burning
  • Clear discharge
  • Often accompanied by dark circles under the eyes (allergic shiners), runny nose, nasal congestion

Eye Allergy Treatment

  • The first step in treatment of any allergy is avoidance of your trigger. If pollen is your trigger, keep windows closed and stay inside during times when the pollen is high. Use air conditioning in the car and at home. During high pollen days wear sunglasses to decrease your eyes exposure to allergens. If animals are your trigger, make sure to keep animals out of your bedroom and especially off of your bed. After handling animals wash your hands.
  • Medications. Artificial tears will help rinse allergens off of eye surface. Oral antihistamines may help relieve symptoms but can also lead to over drying of eyes. If you are unable to control symptoms with over the counter medications, the next step would be to see an allergist to determine further treatment options like antihistamine eye drops.
  • While antihistamines will provide relief of eye allergy symptoms they are only symptomatic treatment and symptoms will return without medication use. Allergy shots (allergy immunotherapy) are disease changing and provide a more permanent solution to allergies.

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