Because eye allergies are very common, Dr. Pairolero and Dr. Langhorst would like to share some background information with you about eye allergies.
What Is An Allergy?
An allergy occurs when there is an overreaction by the immune system to allergens. Allergens are normally harmless and do not cause an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions only occur if a person comes into contact with an allergen and their immune system thinks the allergen is a threat. This results in the immune system producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E to fight the allergens.
Most people will have at least one allergic reaction at some point in their lives. The most common allergens are pollen, dust mites, pet dander, insect stings, and food.
The first time someone that has an allergy is exposed to an allergen, they may not have an allergic reaction. But after they become sensitized to the allergen, any future exposure to the allergen could result in an allergic reaction.
How Do I Know if I Have Eye Allergies?
Symptoms that often occur with most types of eye allergies include:
- Red eyes
- Itchy or scratchy eyes
- Feeling like your eyes are burning
- Seeing a clear discharge coming out of the eyes
You may also have a stuffy nose, sneeze, experience sinus pressure, have a sore throat, start coughing, get shortness of breath, or feel your chest start to tighten. In severe cases, you may have an asthma attack.
These allergic reactions occur because the body produces white blood cells. The white blood cells attach, creating mast cells.
Mast cells regulate the immune system to help defend tissues in the body from disease. When the body is re-exposed to the same allergen, the mast cell releases chemicals to fight the allergen and protect the body.
This results in an allergic response. Depending on the severity of the allergy, this response can be anywhere between uncomfortable and dangerous.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Eye Allergies?
There is more than one kind of eye allergy. Common kinds include the following:
- Seasonal Allergies: Seasonal allergies are the most common kind of eye allergies you can have. One of the most common symptoms you will experience with seasonal eye allergies is itching as well as redness, burning, and a mucus discharge.
- Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis (PAC): Perennial allergic conjunctivitis is another name for year-round allergies. With these eye allergies, you are usually allergic to dust, animal dander, or other allergens that come from the environment that you live in. You may experience symptoms like puffy eyes, watery eyes, or itching.
- Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis: Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a chronic yet severe allergy that affects the surface of the eyes. It develops due to being allergic to airborne allergens and is most common in boys that live in warm, dry places before the age of 10. Symptoms may include light sensitivity, involuntary blinking, and bumps on the eyelid. This condition usually goes away once puberty begins.
- Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis: This condition occurs because of having a condition called atopy. With atopy, your immune system will produce higher than normal antibodies to allergens. Symptoms may be worse in the winter and you may have a swollen conjunctiva. You may also experience light sensitivity and tearing.
- Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC): Giant papillary conjunctivitis occurs when the inside of the eyelid is red, irritated, and swollen. You are most likely to develop this condition if you wear contact lenses, as well as if you have chronic eye allergies.
Other symptoms you may develop include papillae, which look like pimples on the inside of your eyelid, eye pain, and extra mucus in the eye.
What Causes Eye Allergies?
Common airborne allergens that can cause eye allergies include:
- Pet dander
How Are Eye Allergies Treated?
There are several approaches to treating eye allergies. Our eye doctors can help determine which options are best for your symptoms. Eye allergies can be treated using different types of eye drops and medications including:
- Mast Cell Stabilizer/Antihistamine Eye Drops These eye drops help patients with eye allergies because they both treat and prevent symptoms like redness, itching, watery eyes, and burning from occurring.
- NSAID Eye Drops: NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) eye drops affect certain nerve endings. For people with eye allergies, that means you will no longer experience any feelings of itchy eyes when you use these.
- Allergy Shots: If you have ever had a vaccine, then you already know how an allergy shot works. These shots decrease your sensitivity to allergens and for many patients, can lead to long term relief from allergy symptoms. This relief continues for most people even after they stop taking the shots.
- Non-Sedating Oral Antihistamines: With non-sedating oral antihistamines, the effects of histamine are blocked, providing relief from allergy symptoms. But they do not cross the brain barrier, meaning this kind of antihistamine is less likely to make you drowsy.
How Can Eye Care Associates of Haslett & Perry Treat My Eye Allergies?
It is a good idea to see your optometrist if you have eye allergies that have not responded to at-home treatments or over-the-counter allergy medications. The eye doctors at Eye Care Associates of Haslett & Perry are qualified to treat eye allergies and will come up with a comprehensive diagnosis to identify any potential triggers. Based on this diagnosis, they will be able to prescribe the necessary medication.
Are There Any Preventative Measures I Can Take?
To reduce allergy attacks, it is recommended to avoid allergic triggers as well as exposure to any environments that make your allergies worse.