When an individual’s eyes become exposed to substances such as mold spores, and pollen, they can turn red, watery and itchy. These are categorized as the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. Therefore, allergic conjunctivitis is an eye inflammation condition that is as a result of allergic reactions caused by substances like pollen and mold spores.
The conjunctiva is a membrane that is found on the eyelids, and it covers the eyeballs. This layer is susceptible to irritations caused by allergens, especially those found during the hay fever season. This article will center on the causes and treatments of allergic conjunctivitis.
What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?
Allergenic conjunctivitis is a condition that results in the inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin layer of skin that covers the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. The layers of skin that make up the conjunctiva have particular transparent cells. This condition is not painful, and the eyes do not become sensitive to light. The disease does not also affect vision. The leading cause of the illness is pollen that is common during the hay fever season. Other well-known causes of conjunctiva include the allergies to cosmetics, house dust, mite, and also problems associated with contact lenses.
The University of Illinois College of Medicine observes that allergies happen when our bodies react to substances that the body recognizes as foreign. These allergic reactions are important in our body’s immune defense mechanism. When a person is allergic to something, the body’s defense system reacts hence producing strong chemicals like histamine. Histamine is the one that is primarily responsible for itchy and watery eyes, including many other symptoms relating to conjunctivitis.
Four Causes of Allergic Conjunctivitis
Allergic conjunctivitis comes in two different types such as the acute allergic conjunctivitis and chronic allergic conjunctivitis. The acute allergic conjunctivitis is a short-term condition that is mostly common during a certain season. A person’s eyelids suddenly swell burn or itch. An individual may also experience wet nose. Chronic conjunctivitis happens all year-round, and it is a milder response by the body to some allergens like food, animal dander and dust. The common symptoms may include itching and burning of the eyes and light sensitivity.
A person experiences conjunctivitis when the body tries to defend itself against a foreign threat. The body reacts to these threats resulting to the production of histamine, which is a chemical that fights foreign invaders. Some of the substances that prompt the release of histamine include the following:
Pollen is a light substance that is powdery, and it consists of tiny grains. It is released by the male part of a flower. The symptoms caused by pollen vary from day to day. It all depends on the weather. Consequently, they will worsen on hot days and after a thunderstorm.
2. Household dust
The dust from offices, homes, and other human environments contains small amounts of pollen, animal hair, textile fibers, and minerals from outdoor solids that can result in allergic conjunctivitis.
3. Animal dander
Animal dander comprises of tiny flecks of skin that have been shed by dogs, cats, birds and other animals with fur. These bits of skin can make a person react if they are allergic to the triggers.
4. Mold spores
Exposure to damp and moldy environments can lead to conjunctivitis. Other effects associated with molds include coughing, nasal stuffiness, wheezing and skin irritation.
Additionally, certain individuals experience conjunctivitis when they react with particular medications or substances that come in contact with the eyes. Such products include medicated eye drops and contact lens solutions.
Allergic Conjunctivitis Treatment
The diagnosis of conjunctivitis is made using physical examination and medical history of the patient. It is likely for a patient to have a history of various other allergic reactions or a family history of allergy. The doctor will run tests when the diagnosis is uncertain, especially in chronic conjunctivitis.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the tests may comprise of an examination using a microscope. The test will show swollen blood vessels present on the surface of the eye. One of the tests involves performing a scrapping of the conjunctiva tissue and staining it for examination of eosinophils. Eosinophils are white blood cells that are always present when a particular body tissue is affected by allergic reactions.
The best treatment of any allergic reaction is to reduce or eliminate entirely the body’s exposure to the allergen. In mild cases of the allergy, the ocular itching, and many other symptoms can be easily tolerated without treatment. When the symptoms become unbearable, a cold compress is commonly applied to the eyes so as to provide temporary relief. Other people who have moderate symptoms do obtain relief by using medicated drops or ocular lubricants. A vasoconstrictor is a traditional medication, and it is efficient is shrinking the blood vessels that have congested in the conjunctive. It also reduces swelling. These drugs can be easily purchased from the drugstore, and they do not need a doctor’s prescription.
For severe and acute allergic conjunctivitis, other medications may be needed. Various drugs are manufactured using a combination of vasoconstrictor and antihistamine. Antihistamines inhibit itching and tearing through blocking the action of histamine.
Certain eye drops are known to prevent the release of histamine from the mast cells. Histamine is produced by the mast cells. Patients with severe allergic conjunctivitis can use a combination of drugs in addition to corticosteroid drops. However, steroids should not be utilized for an extended period because they can cause cataracts or glaucoma in some patients.
You should visit your physician if you experience symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis that do not relate to the self-care steps or over the counter treatments. It is important to remember that an allergy can be effectively treated. It is also easy to manage. Preventive measures of the disease include closing windows when the pollen count is high, using an indoor air purifier, avoiding exposure to chemicals, and keeping your home dust free.