Ocular Allergies

Ocular Allergy Overview

Ocular Allergy or Allergic Conjunctivitis occurs when something you are allergic to irritates the delicate clear membrane covering the eye and/or the inside of the eyelid. This important tissue is called the Conjunctiva. Like all allergies, allergic conjunctivitis starts when the immune system identifies an otherwise harmless substance as an Allergen. This causes the immune system to overreact and produce antibodies called immunoglobulin (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals which cause an allergic reaction. Ocular reactions to an allergen can include eyes that water, itch, hurt, or become red or swollen.

Most Eye Allergies fall into one of two categories--these are Seasonal Allergies and Chronic Allergies. Seasonal allergies are the most common causes of allergic conjunctivitis, and generally are due to pollens and mold spores. Patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever normally notice their symptoms worsen when they go outdoors on days with high pollen counts. Chronic Allergies are non-seasonal and can occur off and on continuously throughout the year. They are usually due to Indoor Allergens such as dust mites and pet dander, and can consequently worsen during activities such as house cleaning or grooming a pet. Eye allergy symptoms despite being very annoying and uncomfortable, pose little threat to eyesight other than temporary blurry vision and are not contagious. It is important to note that red, itchy, burning eyes can also be due to many types of infections which unlike allergic conjunctivitis, may be contagious. For these reasons, patients should always contact their eye care professionals when experiencing any red eye symptoms, so they may be correctly diagnosed and treated.

Eye Allergy Symptoms
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Burning
  • Clear, watery discharge
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eyelid swelling

These symptoms can occur alone or along with allergic rhinitis nasal symptoms, and generally appear shortly after exposure to the allergen.

Eye Allergy Treatment and Management
  • Avoid triggers by making changes to your home and to your behavior.
  • Keep windows closed during high pollen periods.
  • Use air conditioning in your home and car.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to help protect your eyes from pollens and other outdoor allergens.
  • Use "mite-proof" bedding covers to limit exposure to use mites, and a humidifier to help control mold.
  • Wash your hands after petting any animal.
  • Over the counter artificial tears and decongestant eye drops can sometimes provide temporary relief.
  • See your eye doctor for proper medications when symptoms persist and occur regularly.

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