Millions of people suffer from eye allergies every year. In fact, up to 25% of people worldwide suffer from ocular allergens. Seasonal allergies are caused by environmental factors such as pollen from grass, weeds and trees and chronic causes are largely due to contact lens reactions. Eye allergies can present all on their own but are sometimes combined with nasal and skin allergic reactions. Typically, allergies do not affect just one eye at time and both eyes are affected; infections, however, are a different story. An eye infection can affect just one eye leaving the other eye unaffected.
If you experience burning, itching, redness or clear, watery discharge from the eyes you may have eye allergy symptoms. While only the eyes may be affected independently, sneezing, sniffling or stuffiness of the nose can also be attributed to allergies. Outdoor allergens include pollens, indoor allergens include pet dander, dust mites and mold, and irritants can include cigarette smoke, perfume and diesel exhaust. Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and reacts to the allergen encountering antibodies attached to the mast of cells in the eyes. The cells react by producing histamine and other chemicals that cause tiny blood vessels to leak. This causes the eyes to display the effects of the allergy. Symptoms of burning, itching, redness and tears can range from mild to severe. If over the counter remedies such as artificial tears, decongestants or oral antihistamines do not provide relief, you will want to visit an allergist or an ophthalmologist to assess the swollen blood vessels on the surface of the eye to determine cause and treatment options.
While there are a variety of eye allergies some of which are related to other medical conditions, seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is the most common type of eye allergy. To avoid eye allergies you can take the following preventative measures: do not touch or rub your eyes, wash hands often with soap and water, use a vacuum with an asthma and allergy friendly filter, wash bed linens in hot water and detergent to reduce allergens, wear sunglasses or other protective eyewear to keep pollen from floating into the eyes, keep windows close during high pollen and mold seasons, and consume medically-approved allergic medications that will help protect you from the effects of allergies.
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