An eye allergy is a vision related disorder in which a person experiences pain, irritation and discomfort in either one or both the eyes. The signs of this condition are clearly observable in a person and are visible through the naked eye. The symptoms are redness, itching, watery or non-watery discharges, and pain and discomfort in the eyes. The symptoms are mostly controlled by nonprescription medications, sold over the counter. An eye allergy mostly takes place due to allergens like outdoor allergens (pollens from grass, trees and weeds), indoor allergens (pet dander, dust mites and mold) and irritants (cigarette smoke, perfume and diesel exhaust).
HOW IS EYE ALLERGY DIAGNOSED?
Most allergic eye conditions are more irritating than dangerous.
Red, itchy watery and swollen eyes are usually symptoms of eye or ocular allergy. These symptoms may occur alone but are usually accompanied by sneezing or stuffy nose associated with nasal allergies.
Eye Allergy can be caused due to the following reasons:
• Outdoor allergens like pollen from flowers, grass, weeds or certain types of trees
• Indoor allergens like dust mites and stray fur from pets
Eye allergies usually develop when an allergen that triggers sensitivity in the immune system of the body comes into contact with the conjunctiva of the eyes. They share symptoms with some eye diseases which makes it important to diagnose eye allergies correctly.
Given below a few of the prominent kinds of allergies of the eye:
• Seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis: SAC is the most common type of eye allergy whose symptoms may be experienced in spring, summer or autumn. It usually depends on the kind of pollen in the air. The symptoms of redness of the eye, itching, burning and clear, watery discharge often occurs alongside sniffling, sneezing and nasal congestion as in nose allergies or hay fever. People with SAC can have chronic dark circles under their eyes with puffy eyelids.
Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis (PAC) occur all round the year.
• Vernal keratoconjunctivitis: Generally a more serious eye allergy than SAC and PAC, vernal keratoconjunctivitis primarily affects young men and boys most of whom are affected with asthma or eczema. It causes itching, production of a lot of tears and mucus and photophobia. If left untreated, it can cause blindness.
• Atopic keratoconjunctivitis: It affects old men who have suffered from skin allergies. Its symptoms are similar to those of vernal conjunctivitis. If left untreated however, it can cause scarring of the cornea and its membrane.
• Contact allergic conjunctivitis: It develops as a result of irritation caused by contact lenses or the proteins from the tears that bind to the lens surface. It has the usual symptoms of eye allergy including discomfort in wearing the lens.
• Giant papillary conjunctivitis: Directly caused by the wearing of contact lenses, giant papillary conjunctivitis is a very severe form of contact allergic conjunctivitis in which individual fluid sacs form in the upper lining of the inner eyelid to cause redness, puffiness, swelling of the eyelids, mucous discharge, blurring of vision and low tolerance for contact lens along with a foreign body sensation.
Eye allergies can be prevented by following a few simple measures:
• Wash your hands properly after handling pets.
• Wear gloves to dust your beds and linen to make them mite free.
• Close your windows and doors to shut the pollen out.
• Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to prevent an irritant from coming into contact with your eyes.
Eye allergies may be treated with OTC products like tear substitutes, decongestants and oral antihistamines. Decongestants however should not be used by individuals affected with glaucoma or for more than two or three days at a stretch. Oral antihistamines also sometimes aggravate the condition of eye allergy.
Allergists usually prescribe the following drugs depending upon the nature of the allergy:
• Eye Drops (decongestant, antihistamine, mast cell stabilizer, corticosteroid, NSAID).
• Nonsedating oral antihistamines.
In children, eye allergies can be treated with a combination of OTC and prescription eye drops and medications. Artificial tears are usually safe and can be administered at any age. It is however better to exercise caution and consult a child physician before any such treatment.
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