Allergies are an extremely common problem and it is estimated that more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergy each year. Allergies are also the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. An allergic reaction occurs when your body’s immune system identifies a substance as being harmful and overreacts to it. These substances are known as allergens and usually, they are completely harmless to the average person. Nevertheless, an allergy sufferer will experience a range of unpleasant and debilitating symptoms when they become exposed to the allergen.
The symptoms which allergies can cause can vary widely, as too can the severity with which people experience them. However, one part of the body that tends to be affected by a wide variety of different allergies in the eyes.
Our eyes are extremely sensitive and can react to allergens too. To do this, they produce a substance known as histamine which fights off the allergen. However, as a result, the eyelids and the conjunctiva – which is the mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids - become swollen, red and itchy. People inadvertently rub and touch their eyes, causing them to become sore.
The key symptoms of eye allergies include:
Red, swollen eyes
Itching and irritation of the eyes
Sensitivity to light
Since many people who experience eye allergies also suffer from nasal allergies too, the above symptoms may be accompanied by a runny or stuffed up nose, sneezing, and a sore throat.
Unfortunately for sufferers of eye allergies, allergens exist everywhere. Some of the most common triggers for eye allergies include:
Pollen, particularly grass and tree pollen
Chemicals in the air such as those found in perfume
Eye drop that contains preservatives
Determining the cause of your eye allergy is important if you are to try and limit contact with it. Pollen is classed as a seasonal allergy and is much more prevalent in the spring and summer months when plants and trees are enjoying maximum growth. Allergic reactions to seasonal substances such as pollen account for the majority of eye allergies in the United States.
There is currently no cure for allergies. The only option for sufferers is to try and prevent exposure to the allergens that trigger their body to react and to take steps to try and keep reactions under control and limit the symptoms you experience.
Prevention is always better than cure. If you have identified the cause of your allergy and it is something avoidable, then it is best to take steps to limit your exposure to the allergen. For example, if you are allergic to pollen, try and stay indoors on days where the pollen count is high. Wearing glasses/sunglasses is also beneficial as it can help to shield your eyes from air-borne pollen that is passing by. When you choose sunglasses, opt for larger lenses or wraparound styles for the best protection.
If you usually wear contact lenses, we will advise you to consider wearing glasses instead during allergy season. This is because lenses can accumulate microscopic allergens on the surface which will make your symptoms much worse. You can consider wearing daily disposables, but most people find that their allergy makes placing and removing contacts much harder anyway. It is better to give your eyes a total rest from lenses if possible.
Since eye allergies are fairly prevalent, especially when they are seasons, there are plenty of different eye drops that you purchase over the counter in your local drug store. These can provide some relief from the symptoms of your allergy.
If eye drops aren’t proving effective, then we may be able to give you a prescription for alternative medication to help control your eye allergies. These can include antihistamines, decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and even steroids. In severe cases, we may also speak to you about immunotherapy, a type of treatment that is designed to help you build up your immunity to the allergens that trigger your body to react.
If you are concerned that you have eye allergies, including season eye allergies, and would like the support and assistance of experienced professionals, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert optometry team at City Eyes Optometry Center in Sherman Oaks, CA today (818) 960-1300.