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Allergic reaction in the eye is termed ‘Allergic conjunctivitis’, this is a non infectious form of conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is the most common type of eye allergy. It occurs when the membrane covering the eye (the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed, causing itchy, red or watery eyes.
There are two common types of allergic conjunctivitis: seasonal and perennial.
- Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis occurs only during certain seasons.
- Perennial allergic conjunctivitis persists throughout the year.
The symptoms are similar in both.
Causes of eye allergies or Allergic Conjunctivitis
Exposure to common allergens such as dust, mold, animal hair, pets and pollens are the commonest causes. When these allergens come in contact with the surface of the eye, an allergic reaction occurs, releasing a substance called histamine that causes itching, redness or watering.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis?
You may or may not have all the following:-
- Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
- Increased amount of tears and watering of eyes
- Itchy , foreign body sensation in the eyes
- Feeling of dryness in the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Swollen or puffy eyelids
How Is Allergic Conjunctivitis detected?
Our ophthalmologist (eye specialist) will diagnose this condition if you have any of these persistent symptoms as similar symptoms also occur with an infectious form of conjunctivitis.
To detect the “trigger allergen” now blood tests are also available
What is the treatment?
Allergy-associated conjunctivitis may disappear completely, either when the allergy is treated with antihistamines, or when the allergen is removed.
It includes the use of antihistamines, decongestants and anti-inflammatory agents to treat the cause, for e.g. treat the cold.
We may recommend you use one or more of the following for your eyes:
- Antihistamine eye drops: These reduce redness, swelling and itching by blocking the actions of histamine, the chemical that causes these symptoms of allergy. They are available both over-the-counter and by prescription.
- Steroid eye drops: We may prescribe steroid eye drops to relieve the symptoms of conjunctivitis when needed. These must be used only under supervision of the eye doctor since they can cause elevated pressure inside of the eye, which can lead to vision damage. These should not be used by you on your own, even if symptoms recur.
Other ways to reduce seasonal allergens include:
- Shutting doors and windows to keep allergens from environment out
- Using the air-conditioning to filter allergens from the air
- Staying indoors when the pollen count is high
- Avoiding gardening work if possible
Other ways to reduce perennial allergic conjunctivitis include:
- Sweeping and dusting with a face mask, avoiding it if already symptomatic
- Vacuuming carpets weekly
- Keeping pets out of bedrooms
- Avoid carpets as they collect allergens such as dust
What Can I Do to Relieve Symptoms?
- Discontinue contact lenses, if using them.
- Use cold compresses on your eyes- cotton wool soaked in cold wa
- Try “artificial tears,” or lubricating eye drops which help relieve itching and burning (Note: Other types of eye drops may irritate the eyes and should not be used.) Do not use the same bottle of drops if opened and unused for over a month
- The best defense against allergic conjunctivitis is a good offense: try to avoid substances that trigger your allergies.
- Don’t touch or rub the affected eye(s).
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water before touching your eyes, especially after cleaning activities or outdoors.
- Wash your bed linens; pillowcases regularly to reduce dust mites- cover the pillow cases with hypoallergenic material like Tyvek™ available in many stores.
- Avoid wearing eye makeup when having the allergy.
- Don’t share eye makeup with anyone else.
- Never wear another person’s contact lens.
- Wear glasses instead of contact lenses to reduce irritation.
Eye makeup and Allergies
Eye makeup such as Eye Shadow, Mascara, Eye Liner etc are very popular and are used nowadays on a daily basis by many women that too for extended hours.
Although, many products claim to be hypo allergenic, they may give rise to certain eye problems like allergic conjunctivitis. However, if used properly, make up would generally not give rise to any problems.
The eye problems occur in the following situations:
- Sharing of Eye Make up
- Using old (expired date) make up
- Using make up of poor quality
- Using make up incorrectly
In presence of the above, it could lead to an inflammation of the eye. While most cases of eye inflammation are not too serious, it is still important to control the severity of the inflammation as well as the duration to be sure to avoid any scarring and permanent damage. Because the eyes are such delicate organs, even a small amount of scar tissue can cause irreversible visual impairment.
Eye shadows and facial powders can contain potentially irritating cosmetic-grade lanolin (in creme products), talc, polymethyl methacrylate (used to hold talc and oil ingredients together in eye shadows), and phenylmercuric acetate (a mascara preservative) which may be allergic for certain skin types.
Self-care tips for make up
- Using good quality products and replacing them when old.
- If you have a form of conjunctivitis caused by an infection, wash your hands often and do not touch your eyes.
- Do not share eye makeup, sunglasses, or towels, washcloths, or pillows with others. Follow your doctor’s recommended treatment to clear the infection.
- Make a warm or cold compress by using a clean cloth or cotton swab. Use only boiled or purified water to wet the cloth and place this on the closed eye. A warm compress typically helps to reduce discomfort, while a cold compress works well to reduce itchiness and inflammation.
- You can use Johnson and Johnson – ‘No More Tears Shampoo’, a few drops in warm water to clean eye make up.