There is a condition that refers to that dry itchy eye that seems to water at the most inopportune moments and causes equal parts irritation and frustration – allergic conjunctivitis or in laymen’s terms: eye allergies.
If there is a constant battle due to irritation of the eye and no amount of eye drops can relive that dry itchy feeling that seems to overpower every moment of the day – this could be an eye allergy. When the term allergy or allergic reaction is thrown around, typically eyes doesn’t come to mind unless it is in the case of one symptom combined with hives or rashes, redness or itch. But it has been clinically proven that millions of people around the globe suffer from some sort of eye allergy.
Causes and triggers of an eye allergy
An eye allergy is caused by an unknown agent coming into contact with either the bloodstream or the membranes of the eye itself and causing some form of negative reaction. This is because the unknown agent is considered toxic by the body and it increases the production of histamines to dispel it immediately. This increase in histamines is what causes the itchy feeling that comes over the eye and/or and signals an allergic reaction.
There isn’t an actual cause of an eye allergy or any allergy for that matter, at least not one that has been scientifically proven, but rather a person’s chemical makeup determines what agents their body treats as toxic.
Some of the agents in the atmosphere that could signal the body to have an allergic reaction in the eyes include but are not limited to:
- Pollen and dander from plants
- Irritants of the eyes, such as smoke or strong fragrances or even cleaners
- Pet dander
- Dust and dust mites
- Insect bites and stings – especially those that occur near the eye or on the face
- Symptoms of an eye allergy
Eye allergy symptoms can occur solely in the eye socket or become part of a larger network of symptoms ranging from nasal issues to throat and ear issues. Generally, there will not a rash or an outbreak of hives due to an eye allergy unless a substance spills from the eye onto the cheekbones.
The most common symptoms that signal some sort of eye allergy include:
- Itchy eyes on a constant basis
- Watery eyes on a constant basis
- A clear, watery discharge that is slightly thicker than tears that seeps from the eye on a constant basis.
- Redness of the eye
- A scratchy feeling whenever a blink occurs – similar to the feeling of something in the eye.
- Burning eyes that do not go away after administering an eye drop
Treatment of an eye allergy
Luckily, there are medicinal and natural remedies to treat an eye allergy should an outbreak occur and most of these treatments will not require medical attention. The only time medical treatment is required is if the allergy is severe enough to cause swelling of the throat, tongue or nasal passages as this can have a severely negative impact on a person’s breathing and in worse case scenarios – become fatal. These severe allergic reactions is also referred to as anaglyptic shock.
Treatment of an eye allergy could include using:
- An over-the-counter antihistamine that targets the eyes and skin.
- Use a non-drowsy formula if this is going to be taken during working hours or during a social function, especially one that the individual will be required to operate a motor vehicle.
- Eye drops that add moisture back into the eye and specifically made for allergies.
- Using an eye drop that is made to reduce redness of the eye for prolonged periods of time can actually dry out the eye worst and increase the problem.
- Cold compresses that are held against the eye for a select number of minutes to reduce redness, swelling and burning.
These can be made at home but a cold compress isn’t recommended for constant use that exceeds thirty minutes.
Consult with a daily doctor and an optometrist to discuss different treatment methods to find the best one for each individual. If the individual who experiences eye allergies wear contacts, consider switching to a brand that offers unlimited moisture or try to wear only spectacles during outbreaks.
Prevention of an eye allergy
To prevent the occurrence of an eye allergy, the following guidelines should be followed or modified to suit the individual’s preferences and chemical makeup:
- Use an air purifier in the home to remove any allergens from the air
- Change the filters regularly on the central air system of the home, including the heating system (furnace)
- If there are carpet and/or rugs in the home, vacuum on regular intervals to remove trapped allergens
- Keep the windows of the vehicle closed during warmer months when there is an abundance of allergens in the air
- Monitor how long home windows are open during warmer months.
- Avoid using heavy eye masks or creams that feature a strong scent and could cause further irritation of the eye and its tissues/membranes.
- Wear sunglasses while outdoors to prevent pollen and smoke from getting into the eyes
This is will also prevent the glare from UV rays drying out the eyes even further.
An eye allergy, while a nuisance and a hindrance, doesn’t have to change the current lifestyle that of the individual. With a few minor adjustments and an arsenal of knowledge in the causes, the symptoms, and the treatments; eye allergies can go from being the worse to being manageable.
Some people find that visiting their family doctor to discuss anti-allergy medicated needles can prevent the occurrence of allergies over a prolonged period of time but caution is always advised as there can be some side effects. Speak to your doctor to determine if this a route that would work best for the individual chemical makeup of the body. Request a full allergy test to be completed through a licensed technician to confirm what exactly the allergies are and administer treatment accordingly.