By Dr. Truc Ly Tran
If your eyes itch, are red, tearing or burning, pay attention to what they may be telling you. You may have eye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, a condition that affects millions of Americans. It is a condition that can occur alone, but often accompanies nasal allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, sniffling and a stuffy nose. And, while most people treat nasal allergy symptoms, they often ignore their itchy, red, watery eyes.
Eye allergy triggers
Allergens that may be present indoors or outdoors can cause eye allergies. The most common outdoor airborne allergens are grass, tree and weed pollens. People who are sensitive to these allergens suffer from seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, the most common type of eye allergy.
Pet hair or dander, dust mites and mold are the most common indoor allergens. These indoor allergens can trigger symptoms for some people throughout the year, resulting in perennial allergic conjunctivitis. Cigarette smoke, perfume and diesel exhaust may inflame your eyes. They can act as irritants that cause non-allergic symptoms, or they can make your allergic response worse.
Eye allergy causes
Just like hay fever and skin rashes, eye allergies develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something that is ordinarily harmless. An allergic reaction can occur whenever that “something” — called an allergen — comes into contact with your eyes. The allergen causes certain cells in the eye (called mast cells) to release histamine and other substances or chemicals that cause blood vessels in the eyes to swell, and the eyes to become itchy, red and watery.
Because we believe it is important to properly treat your eyes, we are offering skin allergy testing to determine the root cause of your ocular allergies. By determining what you are allergic to, we can better help you to reduce or eliminate your exposure to the offending allergen. This, in turn, will reduce your symptoms.
The beauty of the skin allergy testing is that it is approved and covered by most insurance. We get the results quickly, and the test is non-invasive. The test is performed on the forearms. We will be testing for more than 60 allergens which will cover everything from grasses, dust, mold and pets.
Often times we think we are allergic to something we are not and are taking oral, nasal or topical medications we may not need which could be exacerbating other ocular conditions such as dry eyes and glaucoma. By establishing exactly what could be causing your ocular symptoms, we can help find the appropriate treatment.
Can eye allergies harm my eyesight?
Eye allergies, specifically allergic conjunctivitis, can be extremely annoying and uncomfortable, and they may disrupt your day-to-day activities, but they usually do not harm your eyes. However, there are rare conditions that are associated with atopic dermatitis (eczema) and other diseases that can cause inflammation which may affect the eyesight. Chronic forms of eye allergies may also be caused by application of eye drops and creams or even cosmetics.
If you are suffering from itchy, red, watery eyes, give our office a call. We look forward to not only helping with your immediate symptoms but to also help you determine what is causing them, so you can prevent future symptoms from occurring or, at least, reduce your exposure when possible.