It’s often said that the eyes are your window to the world. So, much of our everyday lives rely on vision and healthy functioning eyes. When something affects your eyes, it can have a major impact on your quality of life.
Even beyond common eye diseases, and vision problems, something as simple as seasonal allergies can impact your ability to see clearly as well as cause frustration.
Some seasonal allergies come with other overt symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and skin irritation, along with eye discomfort. In these cases, it’s easy to identify that the eye irritation is related to an existing or possibly undiagnosed allergy. Yet there are sometimes when an allergy can affect the eyes without other significant secondary symptoms.
Some of the more common signs of an active or undiagnosed eye allergy include:
- Eyes that feel itchy and dry
- Increasing redness in the eye or eyelids
- A gradual burning in the eye or surrounding tissues
- A watery, often clear discharge
What Are Some Common Eye Allergy Triggers?
Outdoor allergens like pollen from trees, grass, and other plants are relatively common and easy to connect. In times when the pollen count is heavy such as spring and early summer, you might also notice your eyes feeling irritated. It’s easy to connect the dots with this type of allergy, and if you haven’t been diagnosed with an allergy, you should schedule an appointment with your physician.
Indoor allergens can also be a cause of eye allergies. They are more often related to things like pet danger, dust mites, or the presence of mold and mold spores in the home. If you have recently brought home a new pet, and your eyes started to react, you might have an undiagnosed pet allergy.
There are also environmental irritants that can cause your eyes to react. This could be things like cigarette smoke, a new type of perfume, or vehicle exhaust.
How Can I Reduce My Eye Allergy Symptoms?
The underlying cause of your eye allergies will factor heavily into what you can do to reduce your active symptoms. Seeking a professional diagnosis is always a wise first option.
There are things you can do to limit your exposure to eye allergy triggers. If your allergies are pet related you may need to make other arrangements. Sometimes something as simple as washing your hands after petting an animal can also help minimize symptoms.
Keeping windows closed and sleeping with a quality air filter in your room might help minimize pollen allergy symptoms. Purchasing so-called “Mite Proof” bedding might help minimize symptoms of a dust mite allergy.
There are some over the counter medications and eye drops that might help minimize symptoms. Just make sure you have some level of confirmation in diagnosis to make sure you are taking and using the right option. Some of them should not be used to manage prolonged exposure for more than a few days or up to a week.
This might include things like:
- Decongestant eye drops
- Artificial tears to help flush allergens like pollen from the eyes
- Oral antihistamines
How Are Eye Allergies Diagnosed?
An eye allergy is essentially your body’s own immune system overreacting to the stimulus brought on by the cause of your eye allergy. When the allergen comes in contact with the Mast Cells in your eyes your immune system reacts with antibodies. This causes the Mast Cells to release histamine, which also causes the capillaries and other tiny blood vessels to essentially leak. In time the reaction makes your eyes look itchy and red, or watery. As time goes on these symptoms can become worse. Some people with undiagnosed eye allergies will even complain of feeling like there is something in their eye.
There are a few ways to test for an eye allergy, which may vary depending on the type and severity. Being able to explain some correlation between the start of the eye allergy and any changes in your environment might help.
Some eye allergy diagnostic tests involve carefully examining the eyes with a microscope to reveal swollen blood vessels on the eye’s surface. Your physician might also test for a specific type of white blood cell that is known to develop with certain eye allergies. This might also involve carefully scraping the inner lining of the eyelid.
What Are Some of the More Common Eye Allergies?
There are a few common types of eye allergies that might be related to your symptoms of environmental conditions. Knowing the type of allergy will help determine the best treatment plan.
Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis, which is also known as SAC tends to occur in spring, and summer, though it can also occur in the fall. They are typically related to plant pollen in the air.
Many SAC sufferers also develop may dark circles under their eyes. With many of these cases, the eyelids might also be puffy, and you may also develop short-term sensitivity to light. For most people, SAC symptoms often accompany the runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion.
Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis or PAC typically occurs year-round. The symptoms are the same as with SAC yet tend to be milder. These allergic reactions are somewhat common for allergies related to dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander, as well as other indoor allergens.
Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis is one of the more serious eye allergies. It can occur at any point in the year and symptoms may worsen based on the season. It is more common in occurs in boys and young men, especially those with eczema or asthma. Left untreated it can potentially impair vision.
Common symptoms of vernal keratoconjunctivitis include eyes that itch, significant tearing and production of thick mucus. Many also complain of feeling like there is something stuck in their eye, as well as light sensitivity.
Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis is more common in older individuals. It is more likely to affect males who have an established history of allergic dermatitis. The symptoms are very similar to vernal keratoconjunctivitis. Without professional treatment, it can lead to scarring of the cornea.
Professional Diagnosis of Eye Allergies Is Key
If you have been dealing with eye irritation, that is linked to an allergy, or you suspect may be linked to an undiagnosed eye allergy, it’s important to seek a professional diagnosis. Left untreated, some of these eye allergies can cause damage to the eyes and impair your vision. Even those that are relatively benign can still impact your quality of life for days, if not weeks.