Man My Eyes Itch!

Perhaps not those exact words, but the complaint of itching and burning eyes is quite abound this time of year.  Those symptoms, while not mutually exclusive, often indicate allergic conjunctivitis, and like many ophthalmic issues, something most certainly can be done about it!

Symptoms for eye allergies are interesting in that they are often accompanied by other body issues such as sniffling and/or sneezing.  As for the eye, common allergy symptoms are itching, redness, and watering eyes.  Occasionally, the patient may also have red or swollen lids and at times may feel they have “pink eye” or some other infectious type of issue.

Sufferers of allergic conjunctivitis are not alone.   A few years past, The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reported estimates of around 50 million people in the U.S. suffering from seasonal allergies with the numbers increasing.  Why is that important?  Well, allergies trigger other problems, such as conjunctivitis and asthma.  Accordingly, most Americans with allergies also suffer the effects of allergic conjunctivitis.

Interestingly, most people believe ocular allergies are just seasonal.  Obviously, outdoor allergens like weeds, trees and grass are a major source of the problem.  However, other irritants such as perfume, exhaust, pet dander, and mold can also trigger eye problems.  Also, reactions to medicines (eye drops) and cosmetics can occasionally cause unusual and problematic reactions.  These symptoms can be especially troublesome to contact lens wearer prompting contact lens discomfort.    Even if you are generally a successful contact lens wearer, allergy season can make your contacts uncomfortable. Airborne allergens can get on your lenses, causing discomfort to the eye.

If you are one of those sufferers, what can you do about it?   First, the easiest solution is to modify your lifestyle.  Always wash hands after handling animals, wear sunglasses when outdoors, and consider keeping your home windows closed to prevent allergens from coming into living areas.  For contact lens wearers, our office has had great success in switching allergy sufferers to a daily disposable contact lens, as frequent clean replacement lenses increased comfort.

If those simple solutions do not provide the desired level of relief, allergies can be also medically treated.  Numerous options are available and quite effective to reduce symptoms.  In conjunction, applications of cool compresses can temporarily relieve itching and swollen eyes and should be used as part of any therapy plan.

Ocular allergies occur in many forms and can be quite bothersome.  As with any eye condition, it is important to have a quality, thorough examination to ensure the problem is specific to allergies and not something more serious.  This will allow for the appropriate treatment and most importantly, quick comfort.