What are Allergies Involving the Eyes?
The eye reacts to a substance (must be a protein molecule) in the environment that the person’s body or eye is sensitive to and that substance is called an allergen. This causes the eye to become inflamed. People with eye allergies will commonly have systemic (involving other parts of the body) allergies as well.
What Causes the Symptoms of Allergies in the Eyes?
When a person is sensitive to a substance or allergen, the mast cells in and around the eyes release their chemical contents. These contents are responsible for the allergic response in people. In eye allergies, they are most commonly airborne allergens such as dust, pollen, mold, grass, and ragweed. Other typical allergens are pet dander, dust mites, plants, certain chemicals, and cosmetics. Allergies may be seasonal or random depending on the source of the allergy. In almost all cases both eyes are involved.
Symptoms of Allergies
Itching of the eyes
Watering or epiphora
Swelling or edema
Sore or tenderness in or around the eyes
Diagnosis of Eye Allergies
The diagnosis of eye allergies is very dependent on the symptoms with itching being the major complaint. Examination of the eyes by an eye doctor is needed to verify the appearance of the eyes. The final step in diagnosing eye allergies is the response to treatment of the allergies.
Treatment of Eye Allergies
The first line of treatment is trying to determine the cause of the allergies. Allergy testing may be needed to determine what substance or substances are causing the allergic response in a person. Once the triggers or allergens have been determined, the avoidance of these is next step in treatment.
Over-the-Counter Eye Drops
Medicated eye drops such as Visine, Clear Eyes, Naphcon-A, Alaway, and Zaditor are available over the counter. Decongestant type medications should not be used for extended periods of time as they can have a rebound effect in the eye.
This includes such medications as Claritin, Zyrtec, Clarinex, and the older drug Benadryl that are available without a prescription.
Prescription Eye Drops
Drugs such as Alamide, Cromolyn, Alamast, Alocril, Lastacaft, Patanol, and Pataday are medications to treat eye allergies. Corticosteroids may be used as well but with close follow up secondary to the potential side effects.
An allergist may need to give injections to help with treating ocular allergies.