Ocular and Eye Allergies

by May 15, 2019

With warm weather comes allergy season.  For millions of Americans, the spring season means seasonal allergies and the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany them.  Beyond the common systemic symptoms of congestion, wheezing, sneezing and runny noses, seasonal allergies are typically accompanied by uncomfortable ocular symptoms.  Itchy red eyes, watery discharge, and swollen tender eyelids can be signs of ocular allergies. If you suffer from eye allergies, read on to learn about your symptoms and how to get rid of red itchy eyes.

Eye Allergies: Signs and Symptoms

Allergies are the result of an immune response to a normally harmless substance found in the environment, like pollen, dust, or mold.  When these allergens cause an immune reaction in our eyes, it is known as allergic conjunctivitis.  Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when allergens cause the eyes to become extremely itchy and uncomfortable.  The eyes will typically be red and bloodshot; sometimes there will be a watery discharge, especially in the mornings upon awakening.  In moderate to severe cases of allergic conjunctivitis, the skin around the eyes can even be affected, resulting in puffy red eyelids.  Ocular allergies are not contagious, but that does not mean they are not serious. These symptoms can cause significant disruption to life and make the allergy season a miserable time of year.  Luckily, there are ways to get relief from these itchy red eyes.


Treating Ocular Allergies

Treating the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis can range from easy-to-find medicine to lifestyle adjustments.  In many cases, over-the-counter eye drops provide significant symptom relief. These drops are specifically formulated to calm the inflammatory immune response associated with ocular allergies, and go beyond the redness relief of ocular decongestant drops.  In more significant cases of ocular allergies, or in cases where the over-the-counter drops are not effective enough, there are other options. Your eye doctor may prescribe you a stronger anti-allergy drop, or even a topical steroid, that can help address your symptoms by reducing the immune-mediated inflammation that causes red itchy eyes.  In cases where ocular allergies are accompanied by systemic symptoms, like sneezing and congestion, treating the allergy symptoms throughout the body can lead to a relief of ocular symptoms. Working with your primary care doctor to find effective allergy treatments, like oral medications or a nasal spray, can drastically improve the discomfort caused by allergy season.


Tips for Relief from Eye Allergies

Simple steps can be taken daily to prevent or reduce uncomfortable symptoms associated with allergic conjunctivitis.  Avoiding allergens when possible can significantly reduce ocular allergy symptoms. This can include maintaining furnace filters that can help trap allergens, and keeping windows closed during high-pollen months.  When exposure to allergens is unavoidable, remember to wash your face and eyelids with warm water and soap to reduce the risk of direct allergen exposure to the eyes. For allergy-sufferers who wear contact lenses, it is important to regularly clean and replace your contact lenses to avoid allergen build up.  Many people choose to switch to daily disposable contact lenses during the high-pollen months to improve daily comfort.

If this spring has brought you uncomfortable symptoms of ocular allergies, visit your eye doctor at Nittany Eye Associates. Your optometrist can help improve your comfort and protect your eyes this allergy season.

Our eye doctors and staff at Nittany Eye Care excel in the treatment and care of ocular and eye allergies. Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an eye exam appointment online.  Our optometrists provide the highest quality eye care services in the State College, PA area.

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