Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, occur when eyes react with particles that irritate them. These particles are called allergens. Eyes produce an organic nitrogenous compound called histamine to fight the allergens. Reaction of histamine with the allergens causes the eyelids and conjunctiva to become swollen, red and itchy.
There is a burning sensation along with tearing. Normally, not always, people suffering from eye allergies complain of nasal allergies as well. People can also suffer from eye allergies because of exposure to dust, perfumes and smoke. Constant exposure to these items can make the allergy severe and result in itchy watery eyes.
The response of the human body to various allergens (indoor & outdoor) causes eye allergies. Pollens from trees and grass are one of the most common allergens. Reaction to drugs, cosmetics and perfumes can also result in allergies and itchy eyes. In some cases, eyes can react with allergens such as certain types of insect bites or food. If parents have allergies, it increases the chances of their children inheriting it.
You should visit an ophthalmologist if you experience any of the above symptoms. The ophthalmologist will examine your eyes with a slit lamp microscope. If the allergy is severe, the ophthalmologist may test eosinophils (a specific type of white blood cells) that come up in areas where the allergic reaction has taken place.
The best way to treat eye allergies is to avoid or limit contact with the allergen. It maybe better to undergo a skin or blood test to identify the specific allergens.
If pollen is the allergen, then it is better to avoid going outdoors especially during mid-morning and early evening. This is the time when pollen counts are the highest. It is advisable to use sunglasses or eyeglasses to prevent pollens from entering the eyes.
While inside, you should close windows and use air conditioners to minimize exposure to pollens and other substances. Window fans should also be avoided as they draw allergens inside and it is important to keep AC units clean.
If molds result in allergy, then it is vital to keep humidity levels low (30 to 50 percent). High humidity helps molds to grow. It is essential to clean high-humidity areas such as kitchens, basements and bathrooms frequently.
If dust is the source of allergy, it is vital to limit exposure to dust mites and use special allergen-reducing covers for bedding. Bedding must be washed with hot water (54°C). Dry broom or mop must be used to clean floors since wet mops trap allergens.
In some cases, pets are the source of allergy. In such a scenario, they must be kept outside the house as much as possible. Hardwood or tile floors instead of carpeting help trap pet dander. Washing hands after touching pets is crucial.
In several cases, ophthalmologist prescribes eye drops or medicines to cure allergies.Artificial teardrops
These drops provide temporary relief by washing allergens from the eyes. They add moisture and relieve dry and irritated eyes.Decongestants
They reduce redness and are available with or without antihistamines. However, they should not be used for more than a few days as a prolonged use increase irritation.Oral antihistamines
These are helpful to some extent in relieving itchy eyes. However, they can result in dry eyes and worsen the condition.Corticosteroids
These eye drops help treat severe allergy symptoms such as redness, swelling and itching.Allergy shots
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy shots, are taken when eye drops or medicines do not control symptoms. Here, shots containing little amounts of allergens are given to help the body gain immunity against allergens.
i4vision, a top-notch eye care clinic in Kolkata, receives many patients suffering from eye allergies. In this modern clinic headed by Dr Somdutt Prasad, a noted eye specialist in Kolkata, patients are given utmost care to help them overcome the condition.