Eye Allergies: A Comprehensive Overview

Nishi Kashyap
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Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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eye allergies

Eye allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis) are a common issue and can cause trouble for many individuals.

These allergies can commonly cause allergic inflammation in both the eyelids and the thin membranes that cover the eyes. 

The impact of allergies doesn’t stop there, as they can also affect the cornea, which is the front part of the eye.

Eye allergies can vary in severity, ranging from mild forms related to hay fever to more chronic eye conditions.

We must know the condition’s causes and symptoms to diagnose it effectively.

This article will give you a complete understanding of eye allergies and everything you need to know related to this condition.

Continue reading to learn how to manage eye allergies with treatment options and natural remedies.

Prevalence of eye allergy

Allergic Conjunctivitis (eye allergy) is quite common in the United States and affects about 40% of people in North America. 

The number of people with eye allergies is increasing over time.

A study published by The National Library of Medicine examined how common ocular allergies are among people visiting doctors in the UK.

They found that about 8% of patients had eye allergies, which caused symptoms like itchy eyes and a runny nose.

Most people used over-the-counter medicines to treat their symptoms, and only a small number consulted an eye doctor. 

The study suggests that there is a need for specialized eye allergy services to manage these allergies better.

What is eye allergy

Eye allergies, also called allergic conjunctivitis, can occur when the eyes react to something that irritates them, known as an allergen.

The body releases a substance called histamine to fight off the allergen.

These allergens result in red, swollen, and itchy eyelids and conjunctiva (the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye).

Allergic Conjunctivitis is usually not harmful to vision but can greatly impact a person’s quality of life.

Eye allergies can also cause tearing and a burning sensation in the eyes.

If you have hay fever or other types of allergies, you may feel a burning sensation when they come into contact with mold, pollen, or other allergens.

It’s important to note that, unlike other types of conjunctivitis, eye allergies are not contagious and cannot spread from person to person.

Symptoms of eye allergies

Common symptoms of eye allergies include:

  • Itchiness
  • Burning sensation
  • Watery or teary eyes
  • Mild swelling of the eyelids
  • No fever or pain
  • Pink or red eyes
  • No discharge of sticky mucus

Triggers of eye allergies

When our eyes have an allergic reaction to something, it’s called allergic conjunctivitis or ocular allergies.

Allergens, typically found in the air, are the substances that trigger the reaction.

These allergens can get into our eyes and cause problems. 

Here are some common allergens that can affect our eyes.

Outdoor Allergens

Outdoor allergens, such as pollen from weeds, grass, and trees, can cause eye allergies in people. 

These allergens can produce symptoms including itchiness, redness, watery eyes, and swelling of the eyelids when they come into contact with the eyes.

People who are more susceptible to eye allergies should take precautions to ensure their safety.

Limit outdoor activities during high pollen seasons or wear protective eyewear to reduce exposure to allergens and relieve symptoms.

Indoor Allergens

Indoor allergens such as dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander (tiny particles from animal skin or fur) can also result in allergic eye reactions.

These allergens can come into contact with the eyes when they are present inside, causing symptoms such as eye irritation, redness, watering, and puffiness. 

For people prone to eye allergies, it’s essential to maintain clean surroundings and prevent exposure to allergens even when indoors. 

Take additional steps to lower indoor allergen levels, such as using air purifiers.

Additional Allergens

eye_allergy_medications - watery red eyes from spring allergies
A young female with watery red eyes

There are other substances that can irritate our eyes and cause discomfort. 

These irritants include cigarette smoke, strong perfumes and fragrances. 

When our eyes come into contact with these substances, they can become red, itchy, watery, and irritated. 

It’s important to minimize exposure to these irritants whenever possible, especially for individuals who are more sensitive or prone to eye irritation. 

This can be done by avoiding smoke-filled environments, using fragrance-free products, and taking precautions in areas with heavy vehicle traffic or pollution.

Eye makeup

Applying eye makeup can sometimes have negative effects on our eyes.

The ingredients in these cosmetic products are not always suitable for our eyes.

Makeup can cause allergies, make our eyes watery, and even make them swell up.

The FDA has listed common allergens in some cosmetic products like fragrances, preservatives, dyes, latex, and metals.

Using eye makeup less frequently and products that suit your skin is advised.

Bacterial infections

Viral or bacterial infections and allergic reactions can cause pink eye.

Pink eye, also known as Conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the transparent membrane that covers the eyelid and eyeball.

Swollen and irritated blood vessels make the whites of the eyes appear pink or red.

While it can be uncomfortable, pink eye usually doesn’t affect vision.

Treatments like cold compress are available to alleviate symptoms and discomfort.

Getting an early diagnosis and taking precautions is essential, as pink eye can sometimes be contagious.

Types of eye allergies

There are various kinds of eye allergies. 

Some of the most common types are explained below:

Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic ConjunctivitisSource: Inkdrop
Allergic Conjunctivitis

It is the most common type of eye allergy. 

It is characterized by symptoms that occur during spring, summer or fall when there are plant pollens in the air. 

The typical symptoms include itching, redness, a burning sensation, and a clear watery discharge from the eyes. 

People with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis may also experience allergic shiners, dark circles under the eyes, puffy eyelids and sensitivity to bright lights. 

These eye allergy symptoms are often accompanied by other allergic reactions such as a runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion.

Perennial allergic conjunctivitis

It is another type of eye allergy that can occur throughout the year. 

It is caused by allergic reactions to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, mold, pet dander, or other household allergens.

The symptoms of perennial allergic conjunctivitis are similar to those of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis but are usually milder. 

These symptoms include itching, redness, burning sensation, and a clear watery discharge from the eyes. 

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis

It is a more severe form of eye allergy that is characterized by chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva and the cornea. 

This condition can occur throughout the year but tends to worsen during certain seasons.

It is more commonly seen in boys and young men, often in conjunction with other allergic conditions like Eczema or Asthma. 

The symptoms of vernal keratoconjunctivitis include intense itching of the eyes, excessive tearing, thick mucus discharge, and sensitivity to light.

If left untreated, vernal keratoconjunctivitis can potentially lead to vision problems. 

Atopic keratoconjunctivitis

It is a type of eye allergy that affects older patients, mostly men with a history of allergic dermatitis.

The symptoms of atopic keratoconjunctivitis are similar to vernal keratoconjunctivitis and can be experienced throughout the year. 

These symptoms include severe itching, burning sensation, redness of the eyes, thick mucus discharge, and the eyelids may stick together.

If left untreated, it may cause corneal scarring, which may result in vision impairment.

Contact allergic hypersensitivity

This type of eye allergy results from irritation by contact lenses or proteins in tears that bind to the lens surface.

Symptoms of contact allergic hypersensitivity includes redness, itching, mucous discharge, and lens discomfort.

If you experience these symptoms by wearing contact lenses, it is important to discontinue the use and consult with an eye care professional for alternatives. 

Giant papillary conjunctivitis

Giant papillary conjunctivitis is often associated with the prolonged use of contact lenses.

It is considered as a severe form of contact allergic conjunctivitis.

Symptoms of this allergy includes itching, puffiness, tearing, mucous discharge, blurred vision, and discomfort with lens wear.

Note:
Eye allergies can cause bothersome symptoms, and in some cases, more serious conditions like atopic keratoconjunctivitis may even result in vision problems.

Eye allergy in babies

eye allergySource: MartinPrescott_from_Getty_Images_Signature
Pink eye or conjunctivitis

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, seasonal allergies are most common in the United States, affecting 19% of children in 2021.

The common symptoms of eye allergies in babies are red, watery, itchy, and puffy eyes. 

These symptoms can vary in intensity from mild to severe. 

Newborns can get Conjunctivitis either from an infection or a reaction to chemicals that are placed in their eyes. 

Children may try to relieve the discomfort by rubbing and rolling their eyes or blinking frequently.

Newborn babies with Conjunctivitis may have a discharge from their eyes within a few days to a few weeks after birth.

Treating options for eye allergy

Your eye doctor will examine your eyes to determine if you have an infection or allergic Conjunctivitis.

In some cases, a test may be performed to check for a specific type of white blood cell in your eye.

Allergic Conjunctivitis can be easily diagnosed by observing signs such as swollen blood vessels on the surface of the eye using a special microscope.

Your doctor will discuss your medical history and your family’s history of allergies.

The test involves gently scraping a small area of the Conjunctiva and examining the tissue for these white blood cells.

Here are some treatment options that healthcare providers may recommend:

Prescription medicines

Eye Redness and PainSource: pixelshot
Eye redness

Antihistamine eye drops can provide fast relief by reducing redness, itching, and swelling caused by eye allergies.

However, their effects are temporary and may not last long.

Mast cell stabilizers are another type of medication that can be used to treat and prevent eye allergies. 

They work by preventing the release of histamines, which are responsible for causing allergic reactions in the eyes.

Anti-inflammatory allergy eye drops

Anti-inflammatory allergy eye drops are commonly used for the treatment of eye allergies. 

These eye drops can be categorized into two groups: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.

The medications work to reduce inflammation, alleviate symptoms, and provide relief from allergic reactions.

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Allergy immunotherapy

Doctors may suggest allergy immunotherapy, often known as allergy shots, for severe or long-lasting eye allergies. 

As part of the therapy, the patient is gradually exposed to allergens to increase their tolerance and reduce allergic responses.

Artificial tears

Artificial tears are over-the-counter eye drops that can help lubricate the eyes. 

It provides temporary relief from dryness and irritation caused by eye allergies. 

They can be used as needed to alleviate symptoms and improve overall comfort.

Natural remedies for eye allergies

These natural remedies for eye allergies can provide relief and help with the healing process:

Rinse your eyes

Wash your eyes with cold water. 

This helps to remove allergens from your eyes. 

The water washes away the allergens, providing relief and making you feel better.

Tea bags

Using cold tea bags can help calm red eyes caused by allergies. 

Different types of tea have unique properties. 

Chamomile tea contains Terpenoids and Flavonoids that have medicinal benefits. 

Eyebright possesses antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties for treating eye inflammation. 

Green and black teas, which contain caffeine, can aid in reducing puffiness and swelling under the eyes.

Cold compress

Cold compressSource: seahorse_photo_in_bkk
Cold Compress

Cold compresses are helpful because they make irritated eye tissue smaller and give a soothing effect.

When the temperature is colder, it can make blood vessels shrink and decrease blood flow and swelling. 

This helps relieve your symptoms and makes you feel better.

Rose water

According to researchers, rose water is effective in treating eye-related conditions.

Rose water can be made by soaking rose petals in hot water.

Soak a cotton pad in rose water and gently place it over your closed eyes for approximately 20 minutes.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, works as a natural healer to soothe sore eyes.

Mix one teaspoon of fresh aloe vera gel with two tablespoons of cold water to apply the aloe vera. 

Soak cotton rounds in the mixture and place them on your closed eyes for 10 minutes. 

Repeat this twice a day.

Warning:
Before trying any natural remedies, it is important to consult with your doctor to make sure they are safe for your specific condition.

Conclusion

Allergic Conjunctivitis, or eye allergy, affects the eyelids and brings discomfort.

Itching, burning, watery eyes, and mild swelling are common symptoms.

Burning eyes can be a symptom of eye allergies, often caused by allergens like mold or pollen.

Eye allergies can also affect newborns, causing red, watery, and swollen eyes.

Treatment options include prescription medications, anti-allergy eye drops, and natural remedies like rinsing with cold water or using tea bags and rose water.

Consult with a doctor before trying any treatment plan to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the treatment ways for eye allergies?

Treatment options for eye allergies include prescription medications like Antihistamines, anti-allergy eye drops, and oral medications. It’s important to consult a doctor for the best treatment plan for your condition.

What are the symptoms of eye allergies in babies?

If your baby has eye allergies, you may notice that their eyes become red, itchy, and watery. They might also experience a burning sensation. Your child may also develop symptoms like hay fever, discharge from the eyes, or a runny nose.

What are the most common ingredients in makeup that cause eye allergies?

Some of the most common ingredients in makeup that cause allergic reactions include chemicals, fragrances, dyes, and latex. It is important to read product labels and be aware of potential allergens.

What are home remedies for eye allergies?

One of the most effective natural treatments for eye allergies is to thoroughly wash your eyes with cold water.  Aloe vera, rose water, tea bags, and cold compresses may also help to reduce allergy symptoms.

Citations:
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