Are you sneezing and congested? Are your eyes watery and red? Perhaps you have seasonal allergies. About 20 percent of adults and children in the United States suffer from allergies. It’s the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States.
Part of allergy suffering can include red, teary eyes or painful inner eyelids. This can be associated with seasonal springtime allergies or even summer and fall allergies. Red watery eyes, inflamed inner eyelids, blurred vision, a scratchy feeling in the eyes and, sometimes a puss-like or watery discharge can also be related to cosmetic, animal or fabric allergic reactions as well. However, eye inflammation or conjunctivitis can have other causes and need to be diagnosed before treatment begins.
“Allergy suffers can have conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the thin, transparent layer that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye,” said Dr. Vivian Kloke of Family Eye Care of O’Fallon. “Patients need to see an optometrist for a diagnosis and treatment. Many times, we can sooth allergy-related conjunctivitis with prescription or over-the-counter eye drops depending on the patient. However, we need to eliminate the possibility of other causes.”
The three main types of conjunctivitis are allergic, infectious and chemical. The infectious type, commonly called “pink eye” is caused by a contagious virus or bacteria. Infectious conjunctivitis, caused by bacteria, can be treated with antibiotic eye drops. Other forms, caused by viruses, cannot be treated with antibiotics. They must be fought off by your body’s immune system.
And, irritants like air pollution, noxious fumes and chlorine in swimming pools may produce the chemical form of conjunctivitis.
For contact lens wearers, allergy season can present a more difficult predicament. Airborne allergens can get on your lenses, causing discomfort. Allergens can also stimulate the excessive production of natural substances in your eyes, which bind to your contacts and also become uncomfortable.
“Eye drops can help relieve your symptoms and keep your contact lenses clean,” said Dr. Kloke. “However, certain drops can discolor or damage certain lenses, so you might want to check with your optometrist before trying a new brand for relief.”
Another alternative for dealing with allergies and irritated eyes is opting to use daily disposable contact lenses, which are discarded nightly. Because these lenses are replaced each day, irritating deposits cannot build up over time and cause or heighten allergy-related discomfort.