Eye allergies are extremely common. Estimated to affect around 20% of the U.S. population, they may not be life-threatening, but they can be uncomfortable, debilitating, and make life more difficult for those who suffer from them.
Allergies can affect many parts of the body, including our eyes. Eye allergies occur when a normally harmless substance comes into contact with our eyes, but our body perceives it to be harmful. As a result, it defends itself against the perceived danger by releasing chemicals called histamines. It is these histamines that cause the symptoms that we associate with having an allergic reaction.
Every person is different, and while one substance may be completely harmless when it comes into contact with your eyes, it may be a different story for someone else. As a result, there are a wide range of potential causes of eye allergies. Nevertheless, the vast majority are considered by caused by allergies to seasonal substances such as tree, grass or flower pollen. These are more prevalent at certain times of the year, giving them the name ‘seasonal allergies’. Other common causes of eye allergies include:
Chemical exposure, such as perfume or cleaning products
Eye allergies are not contagious and cannot be passed between individuals.
The symptoms of eye allergies are very similar to those of other eye conditions, including dry eyes and pink eye. For this reason, we recommend that you always consult with your eye doctor to ensure that you obtain an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
The most common symptoms of eye allergies include:
Clear, watery discharge
Scaling around the eyes
Swollen or puffy eyelids, particularly in the morning
Many patients find that the symptoms listed above are accompanied by other allergy signs such as a cough, blocked sinuses, sneezing, and wheezing.
Before you are offered any treatment, your eye doctor will try and determine the underlying cause of your allergy. This is because it is far better to try and prevent/minimize your contact with the allergy trigger wherever possible, rather than simply treating the symptoms that the allergy is causing.
You may need to trial several different eye allergy treatments to find the one that is most effective for you. In some instances, they are given in combination too. Some of the options that you may be offered could include:
Antihistamines - This is a very effective anti-allergy treatment that works by blocking the release of histamines when you come into contact with an allergen. They are effective for most types of allergies, including eye allergies, and come in the form of eyedrops as well as orally-taken tablets.
Antibiotics - Sometimes eye allergies result in the patient developing eye infections. If this is the case, you may be prescribed antibiotics to clear the infection. Again, these can be prescribed as oral medication or eyedrops. Always follow the instructions provided and finish the course unless advised otherwise.
Immunotherapy - Usually only offered when eye allergies are severe and all other treatments have failed, immunotherapy works by suppressing the immune system to prevent it from triggering a response when you come into contact with the allergen. However, it can also lower your body’s defenses against other illnesses and diseases, so patients on immunotherapy must be carefully monitored.
If you would like more information about eye allergies, or to schedule an appointment, please contact our friendly and knowledgeable eyecare team at Seabert Eye Care in Burleson, Texas by calling (817) 857-8700 today.