Springtime is here and along with the warm weather we all patiently waited for comes seasonal allergies. According to the CDC, over 50 million Americans will suffer from allergies this year. Seasonal allergies can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms including, sneezing, sinus congestion, itchy throat, and eye irritation. With the pollen count around Columbus, OH averaging in the medium to high zone (5.3-12 )* for the past month, our doctors at COA have been seeing an influx of patients that have irritation, itching, and redness around the eyes. Find out how you can help protect your eyes from seasonal allergies and when to see a doctor for major eye issues that could easily be masked by allergies.
Eye allergies also called allergic conjunctivitis occurs when the eye comes in contact with an allergen. The body then produces histamine to fight off the allergen causing the eye to become red, swollen and itchy. Allergic conjunctivitis shares many of the same symptoms as viral and bacterial conjunctivitis commonly known as “pink eye”, however, it is different in forms of treatment and symptoms. It is important to know the difference.
Viral/Bacterial vs. Allergic Conjunctivitis
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can occur along with colds or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a sore throat. Wearing contact lenses that aren’t cleaned properly or aren’t your own can cause bacterial conjunctivitis. Both types are very contagious. They are spread through direct or indirect contact with the liquid that drains from the eye of someone who’s infected. One or both eyes may be affected. Symptoms include,
- Redness in one or both eyes
- Itchiness in one or both eyes
- A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
- A discharge in one or both eyes that forms a crust during the night that may prevent your eye or eyes from opening in the morning
Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and most cases can be treated with allergy eye drops. The symptoms include,
- intense itching,
- tearing and inflammation of the eyes
- watery nasal discharge.
Treating your allergies with over the counter antihistamines such as Claritin or Allegra could also help reduce irritation of the eyes. However, in some cases, patients who take antihistamines could experience dry eyes. If this occurs it is best to meet with your doctor so they could recommend the best treatment for your eyes.
When to see a Dr.
It is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing a feeling that something is stuck in your eye, eye pain, blurred vision, and light sensitivity. People who wear contact lenses should stop wearing their contacts as soon as pink eye symptoms begin. If your symptoms don’t start to get better within 12 to 24 hours, make an appointment with your eye doctor to make sure you don’t have a more serious eye infection related to contact lens use.
Eye Allergy Care
Columbus Ophthalmology Associates’ Dr. Orlando explains what his recommendations are to help combat eye allergies.
- There are over the counter lid and lash cleaners such as Ocusoft HypoChlor gel that removes environmental allergens that can rest between the lashes after being outdoors. These fall into the eye and start the cycle of inflammation. Using the cleaners twice a day can prevent irritation even before it starts.
- Over the counter artificial tear drops used three to four times a day along with the lid scrubs can flush these same irritants from the eye as well. It is recommended to use these products when coming in from outdoor activities such as golf, bike riding or even just working in the yard.
- If the first two provide relief, continue this treatment until the pollen counts subside. One additional over the counter remedy are antihistamine eye drops, these help reduce itching and minor discomfort. If these do not provide relief then a prescription medication may be necessary. That would be the time to check with your eye doctor so they can look at the surface of the eye under the microscope.
- Oral Allergy Medication- Over the counter medicines such as Claritin, Zyrtec or Benadryl can block the histamines your body is producing. However, these may cause further dry eye. Be sure to consult with an eye doctor if these medications do not help.
- Wearing Sunglasses- sunglasses can protect your eye from dust and pollen while outside.
*Pollen Count Source (https://www.pollen.com/forecast/historic/pollen/43215)