Eye Conditions, Eye Treatments
Some allergens are airborne environmental particles that sensitize the eyelids and ocular surfaces creating an allergic reaction. Allergens can be molds, animal dander, or even common household dust. If seasonal pollens come into contact with the eye the condition is called seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (hay fever).
When exposed to the allergens the body produces histamine, a chemical that combats the allergen. If the reaction occurs around the eye lids it could lead to a “raccoon” mask facial pattern.
Common eye allergy symptoms are a tearing or a burning sensation, itchy and swollen lids. Seasonal conjunctivitis can feel as if gravel or sand is in the eye. In more advanced forms redness, light sensitivity or even visual acuity reduction are noted. Fortunately ocular allergies do not spread from person to person like a bacteria or viral infection would.
Treatment of ocular allergies depends on the location and severity of the allergic reaction. With all cases of allergies it is most important to recognize and avoid the allergens that have been pronounced in the past.
Avoid outdoor activities when pollen counts are reported high on the news. Stay inside during windy conditions when wind scatters pollens in the air.
To help minimize closed space irritants, use air purifiers with high pollen collecting filters when operating air conditioning. Keep the humidity low as moisture promotes mold growth
Allergen-reducing sheets and bedding, especially pillowcases, can reduce contact with allergens.
If you have allergies to domestic animals try to keep them outside of the house as much as possible.
The soothing effect of a cold compress not only brings symptom relief, but helps reduce swelling.
Lubrication drops dilute and wash away allergens from the eye. Their moisturizing properties bring relief from the dryness allergies can produce.
Decongestant eyedrops (with or without antihistamine)
Decongestant drops reduce allergic eye swelling and redness. These can be purchased over-the-counter as decongestants or as a decongestant with an antihistamine (blocking allergic histamine release prevents augmentation of the symptoms).
Oral antihistamines need to be taken cautiously. While they can relieve the itching they cause mucous membranes to dry up. If topical lubricants are not used with oral antihistamines, eye dryness can make the eye allergy symptoms worse.
Catabolic steroid medications
Steroid medications (pills or drops) are very useful in treating chronic and severe eye allergy symptoms. They work by suppressing the inflammation of the allergic reaction. In some life-threatening cases (anaphylactic shock) catabolic steroids can be administered intravenously. Steroid medications should be used cautiously when treating allergies as long term use can have side effects (cataracts, glaucoma and other conditions).
In some long lasting and stubborn cases when allergen avoidance and other remedies have not helped desensitization therapy (allergy shots) could be necessary.
A consultation with your ophthalmologist can help determine which ocular allergy treatments are best for you.