An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies. Approximately 4 percent of allergy sufferers have eye allergies as their primary allergy, often caused by many of the same triggers as indoor/outdoor allergies. For some, eye allergies can prove so uncomfortable and irritating that they interfere with job performance, impede leisure-time and sports activities, and curtail vacations.
What are eye allergies
Eye allergies are also called “allergic conjunctivitis.” It is a reaction to indoor and outdoor allergens (such as pollen, mold, dust mites or pet dander) that get into your eyes and cause inflammation of the conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and helps keep your eyelid and eyeball moist. Eye allergies are not contagious. Other substances called “irritants” (such as dirt and smoke, chlorine, etc.) and even viruses and bacteria, can compound the effect of eye allergies, or even cause irritation symptoms similar to eye allergies for people who aren’t even allergic. The eyes are an easy target for allergens and irritants because, like the skin, they are exposed and sensitive. Certain medications and cosmetics can also cause eye allergy symptoms. By way of response to these allergens and irritants, the body releases chemicals called histamines, which in turn produce inflammation.
The Signs of Eye Allergies
The common symptoms of eye allergies are the result of this inflammation: red, itchy, burning, tearing, swollen eyes, along with a gritty sensation in the eyes. These symptoms may be accompanied by a runny or itchy nose, sneezing, coughing, or a sinus headache. Many also find that their vision is temporarily blurred, or that they feel distracted, unproductive, or tired.
How are Eye Allergies Treated?
The best defense against allergic conjunctivitis is to first avoid contact with substances that trigger your allergies. When prevention is not enough, consider over-the-counter or prescription treatments. Eye allergy symptoms may disappear completely, either when the allergen is removed or after the allergy is treated. Talk to your pharmacist and healthcare provider about what is best for you.
Eye Allergies and Contact Lenses
For contact lens wearers, eye allergies can cause unique problems. During allergy season, there are many loyal contact lens wearers who revert back to their eyeglasses due to discomfort. But many others develop strategies that allow for daily lens wear in comfort and ease. And as for those with allergies who think they cannot wear contact lenses – the fact is many of them can. Worn by an estimated 40 million Americans, contact lenses are a way of life. In the past, contact lens wearers have been interrupted by allergies, especially seasonal allergies, causing some to discontinue lens-usage, and others to stop considering contact lenses as an option. But some of today’s contact lenses are far more accommodating for people with allergy-related eye conditions. Contact lenses can be fitted for vision conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. In addition, they are available in multiple modalities, including daily disposable and two-week replacement. Your doctor will direct you to the right lens for your vision and lifestyle needs. Replacement wear lenses require maintenance—cleaning and disinfecting every day after removal—as proteins, allergens, and lipids cling to their surface. These can cause discomfort, particularly for allergy-sufferers.
Along with the convenience of no solutions, no lens cases, and no hassles, 1-DAY ACUVUE® MOIST®Brand is FDA approved for use with allergies. Clinical research has shown that a fresh pair of contact lenses every day (made from etafilcon A) may provide improved comfort for people suffering from mild discomfort and/or itching associated with allergies while wearing contacts, compared to lenses replaced at intervals of greater than two weeks.
Tips for Preventing Eye Allergies
- Don’t touch or rub your eyes
- Wash hands often with soap and water
- Wash your bed linens and pillowcases in hot water and detergent to reduce allergens
- Avoid wearing eye makeup
- Don’t share eye makeup
- Never use another person’s contact lenses