I Spy an Itchy Eye

Dr. Rica McRoy, and Dr. Alana Coker, R City Eye Care


By Dr. Alana Coker O.D.
R City Eye Care

It’s that time of year again. Birds are chirping, leaves are returning to the trees, flowers are blooming, and everything is covered in a thick, yellow dust.  This pollen bomb often leads to weeks or even months of suffering through allergy symptoms that can range from mild to severe.


Causes
For many people, pollen from trees, grasses, or flowers is the most obvious cause of allergy symptoms, but there are also several other culprits.  For example, mold and smoke are other common causes for ocular allergies, and occasionally, we see allergic responses to makeup, detergents, soaps, and perfumes. For those that suffer year around allergies, the cause is most likely from something indoors, such as dust or pet dander. Others can even be affected by food allergies, but there are often gastrointestinal symptoms with or without skin rashes in these folks.

Symptoms
If you suffer from allergies, you know that in addition to causing sneezing, a runny nose, and sore throat, allergies can affect your eyes.  An allergic response in the eyes most often causes redness, watering, and itching. In more pronounced allergy responses, eyelid swelling and/or a stringy mucous discharge from the eyes occurs.  Some allergy sufferers have an even more severe response with swelling and fluid accumulation in the conjunctiva, which lies over the white part of your eye. In these cases of conjunctival edema, the eyeball itself can appear swollen, and it can feel as though there is a foreign body in the eye. Allergic reactions can also cause a rash on the eyelids or facial skin surrounding the eyes, which usually appears as a red, swollen area that may or may not have small bumps associated with it.

Treatment
There are several different ways to treat ocular allergies.  For those who have both nasal and ocular symptoms, an oral antihistamine is often needed.  Nasal sprays can also be used, but many are not safe or effective for long term use.  People who have exclusively ocular symptoms or those who are not adequately treated with oral medications may also need allergy eye drops, which are available in both prescription and over-the-counter options. For those whose allergies tend to be more severe, allergy shots are needed by a doctor who specializes in allergies. In all cases, determining the cause of the allergic response is key to finding the best treatment option(s). If the trigger can be avoided, for example not keeping a pet in your home if you suffer from an allergy to pet dander, then that is almost always the first step.

If you are suffering from ocular allergies or general allergies that also affect your eyes, we can provide you with a personalized treatment plan. Call us to schedule your appointment today, and let’s see better together!

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