People who have allergies tend to focus on finding quick solutions for symptoms like sneezing, sniffling, and nasal congestion, but what about itchy, burning, watery, or swollen eyes? Eye allergies, also referred to as ocular allergies or allergic conjunctivitis, affect one in five Americans. Luckily, the same treatments and strategies employed to ease nasal allergy symptoms can work for eye allergies, too.
Although the symptoms can be annoying, the allergies themselves pose little to no threat to eyesight other than temporary blurriness. Unfortunately, red, itchy, burning and puffy eyes can be a symptom of more than just allergies, including infections or other medical conditions. If your eye symptoms don’t improve with over-the-counter remedies or prescription medications, seek professional help as your irritated eyes could be a sign of an underlying medical problem.
Seasonal vs. Perennial
When it comes to eye allergies, there are two different types: seasonal and perennial. Seasonal allergies are easier to treat, especially since they only occur during a certain time of the year and are typically caused by exposure to allergens in the air, such as pollen from trees or flowers. Perennial allergies occur throughout the year and are usually caused by dust mites, feathers, and animal dander. In some cases, perfumes, cigarette smoke, air pollution, and certain medications can contribute to allergy symptoms.
Eye Allergy Treatments
Most people with allergies choose to treat themselves with over-the-counter products and tend to do so quite effectively. Home care includes flushing the eyes with water, removing your contact lenses, and using prescription medications or over-the-counter drops. On days when the pollen count is high, stay indoors as much as possible and use an air conditioner to filter the air. If you need to go outside during allergy season, wear wraparound sunglasses – they’ll help shield your eyes from pollen and allergens.
Since eye allergies are so common, there’s a variety of non-prescription eye drops on the market that are formulated to relieve itchiness, redness, and watery eyes caused by allergies. If your eye allergies are mild, consider trying an over-the-counter solution first as they are a less expensive alternative to prescription medications. If your eye symptoms are severe or aren’t relieved with over-the-counter medications, you may need your doctor to prescribe a stronger medication. Common medications prescribed to relieve eye allergies include antihistamines, steroids, and decongestants.
Eye Allergies & Contact Lenses
Contact lens discomfort is a common complaint during allergy season. During this time, some contact lens wearers begin to wonder if they’re actually allergic to their lenses. Studies show that eye allergies associated with contact lens wear isn’t a reaction to the lenses themselves, but a reaction to the substances that accumulate on the surface of the lens. For this reason, it’s important to clean and sanitize your contact lenses according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, especially during allergy season. Many experts agree the best type of soft contact lenses for those with eye allergies are daily disposable lenses, but only your eye care professional can determine the type of lens that’s right for you.