Allergic conjunctivitis is the scientific name for this condition. It is caused, like any allergic reaction, by a mistaken trigger of your body's immune system. Allergens cause your immune system “panic” causing it to react negatively to things that actually pose no harm to the body at all.
Allergens such as pet dander, pollen and dust can trigger this reaction. This allergic reaction releases a chemical called histamine, which makes your eyes dry out and produce more tears— a reaction meant to flush out foreign objects. The blood vessels in your eyes also become inflamed, resulting in red and puffy eyes.
Symptoms of Allergies
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can be quite varied. You may find that your eyes are red, irritated or itchy, that your eyes are sensitive to light, or that your eyelids are swollen. In more severe cases, you may experience a painful, sore or burning feeling in your eyes, suffer from excessive tearing or have a runny nose.
Eye allergy symptoms appear when your immune system reacts to allergens, such as pollen (which leads to seasonal allergies, like hay fever), dust, perfumes, cigarette smoke, mold, pet dander, and cosmetics. In response to the allergen, your body releases antibodies into your bloodstream. In turn, these antibodies then release chemicals into your cells that lead to all the uncomfortable symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms of eye allergies typically emerge very soon after you are exposed to the allergen.
Q: What Causes Eye Allergies?
- A: Many things may cause an allergic reaction. Grass, weeds, tree pollen, dust and pet dander are the most common allergens. Allergic reactions can also occur with everyday items, like makeup or perfume, and even contact lenses.
Treatments for Eye Allergies
Although allergies usually stop once the allergen is removed, and the eyes return to normal, this is not always possible with allergens such as dust and pollen, since they are just about everywhere. For these and other allergies, eye doctors recommend certain over-the-counter or prescription eye drops.
The eye drops should help to minimize the effects of the allergens in your environment. Many of them are formulated as anti-histamines, meaning that they block histamine from the body. There are also a number of other ways that these eye drops work to relieve or prevent allergic symptoms.
Artificial tears are an excellent option to relieve dry eye symptoms caused by allergens. These eye drops are specially formulated to imitate the tears that the allergic reaction has dried up.
Get Relief From Eye Allergies
An effective way to relieve ocular symptoms due to allergies is to place a cold compress gently over the eyes. When that doesn't do the trick, mild antihistamine eye drops can bring relief, followed by prescription eye drops for more severe symptoms. Eye allergies are highly individual and an eye doctor must perform a thorough eye exam to determine the best, most suitable treatment.
Several other ways to reduce or relieve symptoms exist as well. This includes wearing sunglasses when stepping outside to block pollen, dust, and other outdoor allergens from entering your eyes. Contact lenses may also irritate your eyes, so try taking those out if nothing else works. Finally, never rub your eyes while experiencing an allergic reaction. No matter how much they itch, rubbing will irritate your eyes will exacerbate symptoms.