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Spring Allergies and Your Eyes

allergies

The spring allergy season is upon us and many in North Texas are already
experiencingthe affects of allergies. Though rarely dangerous, allergies can be more
than simply annoying.

Eye allergies are commonly triggered any number of allergens, including
pollen, pet dander, dust and mold. As trees begin to bloom and pollen
and other allergens are released into the air, these allergens begin to
irritate the eyes by interacting with the conjunctiva, the tissue lining
covering the white surface of the eye, causing a release of histamine.
As a reaction, the
eyes may itch, burn, water, become red and even swell. In severe cases, complications from eye allergies may
damage eyesight.

The irritating and painful effects of spring allergies may be exaggerated
for individuals who wear contact lenses. When the eyes are dry, itchy
or red, contact lenses may add to eye discomfort. Sensitivity to light
may also be a result of eye allergies. Additionally, contact lenses may
trap allergens in the eye, causing further irritation.

People with a history of allergic rhinitis or atopic dermatitis, or a strong
family history of allergies, may be more susceptible to developing eye
allergies. Though it is not always the case, eye allergies typically affect
both eyes.

Common types of allergic eye conditions:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis — This is the most common allergic eye condition, and is typically associated
    with seasonal allergies or hay fever. Common symptoms including itchy,
    red, burning, watery or swollen eyes caused by the release of histamine.
    Topical antihistamine drops, decongestants and mast-cell stabilizers are
    common treatments for allergic conjunctivitis.
  • Atopic keratoconjunctivitis –– This condition, which primarily affects adolescent boys, involves inflammation
    in the conjunctiva and the cornea. Symptoms include itchy, red patches
    on the eyelids, scaly or crusty skin on the eyelids, heavy discharge or
    sensitivity to light. If not properly managed, this condition could lead
    to permanent scarring of the cornea from rubbing and scratching.
  • Vernal keratoconjunctivitis –– Though less common, this spring (vernal) eye allergy condition causes
    the eyes to become itchy, sensitive to light, and can even cause eyelids
    to feel heavy or droopy. Improper treatment may lead to impaired vision.
    A short-term, low-dose prescription of topical steroids has shown to be
    the most effective treatment for this condition.

Some eye conditions, not caused by allergies, may be confused with allergies.
These conditions include
dry eyes, tear-duct obstruction and conjunctivitis due to infection. If you are
experiencing any of the symptoms of eye allergies, only your doctor will
be able to tell you if your symptoms are in fact caused by an allergic
reaction. Schedule an
eye exam today to ensure your symptoms are not caused by an infection or more serious problem.

Posted in: Dry Eye & Allergy Treatment

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