Eye Allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, is an adverse immune response that occurs when the eye comes into contact with an irritating substance. (Allergens may include pollen, dust, or smoke) This causes the immune system to create chemicals that fight against the allergen, even though it might be harmless otherwise. The reaction leads to numerous irritating symptoms, such as itchy, red, and watery eyes. In some people, eye allergies may also be related to eczema and asthma.
Symptoms of eye allergies may include:
- Itching in the eyes
- Burning eyes
- Watery eyes
- Red or pink eyes
- Scaling around the eyes
- Swollen or puffy eyelids
In some cases, these symptoms might be accompanied by a runny nose, congestion, or sneezing.
Eye allergies are caused by an adverse immune reaction to certain allergens. Most reactions are triggered by allergens in the air, such as: pollen, dander, mold, smoke and dust. Normally, the immune system promotes chemical changes in the body that help fight off harmful invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. However, in people with allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies an allergen, which may be otherwise harmless, as a dangerous intruder and begins to fight against it.
Histamine is released when the eyes come into contact with an allergen. This substance causes many uncomfortable symptoms, such as itchy and watery eyes. It can also cause a runny nose, sneezing, and coughing.
An eye allergy may happen at any time of year. However, it’s especially common during the spring, summer, and fall months when trees, grasses, and plants are in bloom.
The best way to treat an eye allergy is to avoid the allergen that’s causing it. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you have seasonal allergies. Different treatments can relieve eye allergy symptoms.
Certain oral and nasal medications can help alleviate eye allergies, especially when other allergy symptoms are present. These medications include:
- Antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or oxymetazoline (Afrin)
- Steroids, such as prednisone (Deltasone)
Allergy shots may be recommended if symptoms don’t improve with medication. These shots are a form of immunotherapy that involves a series of injections of the allergen. The amount of allergen in the shot steadily increases over time. The allergy shots modify your body’s response to the allergen, which helps reduce the severity of your allergic reactions.
- Eye drops frequently used for eye allergies contain olopatadine hydrochloride, an ingredient that can effectively relieve symptoms associated with an allergic reaction.
- OTC options also include lubricant eye drops, such as artificial tears. They can help wash allergens from the eyes.
- Other eye drops contain antihistamines or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAID eye drops include ketorolac (Acular, Acuvail), which is available by prescription.