Spring is a wonderful time of year with the evidence of new life everywhere; wonderful, unless you suffer from allergies. Whether it be pollen in the spring, grass mid-summer or various weeds late summer, allergic symptoms can vary from mild and infrequent to quite severe throughout the growing season.
Allergic conjunctivitis effects the clear conjunctiva, a thin tissue covering the white of the eye and the inner eyelids. Itching is the predominant symptom. Itching can be accompanied by watering, redness and puffiness. Allergic conjunctivitis can affect all ages and symptoms can vary in severity from one year to the next. Sometimes the nose and throat linings can be affected too.
Allergic conjunctivitis is an inappropriate “overreaction” response of our immune system to an otherwise harmless substance called an antigen. Antibodies are produced by the body to try to defend the eye from the antigen. These in turn cause the release of chemicals which cause the itching, watering and swelling.
Symptoms can be reduced by avoiding exposure to the antigen and spending more time indoors with the windows closed, however, this is not always possible or desirable. Washing your hair before bed and laundering bed sheets frequently can reduce the antigen load that otherwise transfers and accumulates on the pillow overnight. Cold compresses will provide temporary relief . The use of eye lubrication drops such a Refresh Tears or Systane Eye Drops can help dilute the antigen and reduce symptoms. Over the counter anti-histamine drops can be helpful for symptoms lasting just a day or two. If nasal symptoms are also present, oral antihistamine medication can be helpful as well.
If symptoms persist, make an appointment with our office to determine if you do have allergic conjunctivitis or some other eye condition or if there are other associated factors involved such as dry eye. Several effective prescription eye drops are available to help successfully manage mild to several seasonal allergic conjunctivitis and can be prescribed by your optometrist.
Spring should be a season to enjoy without the discomfort of itchy eyes!