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Eye Allergies

Eye Allergies ColumbusEye allergy ( allergic conjunctivitis) is a common condition resulting from exposure to a substance or environmental irritant (allergen). The eyelids and conjunctiva (the thin filmy covering of the white part of the eye) become itchy, red, and swollen. Although this condition has features that mimic bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, eye allergies cannot be transferred from person to person. Many people who suffer from eye allergies also have nasal symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, and post-nasal drip when exposed to an allergen.

Eye allergies can be related to seasonal allergies, like pollen, grass, trees, and ragweed. They can also be due to dust mites, molds, and pet dander. Some allergies are related to cosmetics, medications or preservatives in eye drops.

Your doctor will examine your eyes and discuss your medical history to determine if you have eye allergies. If you have eye allergies, it is important to avoid the substance causing the problem. If necessary, your doctor may recommend that you see an allergist to determine the specific substances you should avoid.

Avoidance of Allergens

To minimize pollen exposure, avoid going outside when pollen counts are high. Wear glasses or sunglasses when you go outside to limit your eye exposure. Keep your windows closed while inside and in your car.

For dust mites, you can use special allergen-reducing bedding covers. Wash your bedding often in hot water. Avoid using dry brooms to clean your floors—instead, use mops or wet cloths that trap allergens.

To decrease exposure to mold, aim to keep the humidity level in your house low. This will discourage mold growth. Also, consider dehumidifiers in areas that are particularly humid, such as basements.

If pet dander is a problem for you, keep your pets outside as much as possible. Most importantly, keep pets out of your bedroom so you have an allergen-free sleeping space. Always wash your hands after touching a pet.

Eyedrops and Medicines for Treating Eye Allergies

Artificial Tears

These drops are available without a prescription and can help eye allergy symptoms by temporarily washing out allergens and soothing the surface of the eye.

Decongestant Eye Drops

Decongestants are also available over the counter. They decrease the redness from eye allergies, but do not improve other symptoms. These drops should be used sparingly, as long term use can cause more irritation.

Oral Antihistamines

Oral antihistamines may have a minimal effect on eye allergies, but are most useful for nasal symptoms.

Antihistamine/Mast Cell Stabilizer Eye Drops

These can come in a prescription or other the counter formulations and have a dual mechanism for fighting allergy symptoms. They are intended to relieve redness, itching, burning, and watering associated with eye allergies.

Steroid Eye Drops

These drops are typically used only in more severe or chronic types of allergic conjunctivitis. They help reduce redness, itching, burning, and watering associated with eye allergies.

Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

If the above measures do not effectively control allergy symptoms, immunotherapy may be an option.