The eyes are one of the most sensitive and vulnerable organs of the body. Airborne allergens and other particles can land directly on the surface of the eye, causing irritation and redness. Although tears constantly wash the eyes, they can’t always keep out allergens like pollen or pet dander. Because of this ocular allergies are common.
What Are Ocular Allergies?
Eye allergies are no different than those that affect your sinuses, nose or lungs. When an allergen comes in contact with your eyes, your body releases histamine, a chemical produced in reaction to a substance that the immune system can’t tolerate. Special cells called mast cells make histamine. These cells are present throughout the body but are highly concentrated in the eyes.
Ocular allergies tend to be airborne. The most frequent allergic trigger are pollen, pet hair or dander, dust and some medications.
Other triggers that irritate the eyes but are not true allergies are cigarette smoke, perfume and diesel exhaust.
If you have ocular allergies or any kind of allergic disease, the most effective treatment is prevention. Try to avoid the allergens that trigger symptoms. This is not always an easy task, especially if your triggers are airborne, such as pollen.
When ocular allergies can’t be controlled, there are several medications that may help to relieve symptoms. Most of these treatments are topical, such as eye drops or ointment.
Allergic Conjunctivitis and conjunctivitis caused by an infection can be hard to distinguish. They both manifest themselves by an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the membrane lining under the eyelids). Both have similar symptoms, such as redness, itching and swelling in the eye area. However, when conjunctivitis is caused by allergies, both eyes are usually affected. Viral or Bacterial Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye”, can affect either a single eye or both eyes.
Common symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis are:
- Redness and itching under the eyelid
- Excessive watering
- Swelling of the eyeball
Common symptoms of conjunctivitis associated with infection are:
- Feeling that eyelids are “glued” shut upon waking
- Sensitivity to light
- Pus on the surface of the eye
- Burning sensation
It is important to determine whether someone has conjunctivitis because of allergies or infection since each treatment is different. Because of this reason, it is necessary to schedule an appointment with your doctor so that he can accurately diagnosis your condition and prescribe the proper course of action to ensure your ocular health.