Allergic Eye Disease causes red, itchy and watery eyes. The common cause of allergic eye disease is exposure to environmental allergens, including mould spores and pollen. The transparent membrane in your eye that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball, called the Conjunctiva, becomes inflamed due to the body’s allergic response. Allergic eye disease can occur at all ages, and often starts in early childhood..
Types of Allergic Eye Disease
There are broadly two types of Allergic Eye Diseases. Those are:
Acute allergic conjunctivitis
This is a very common occurrence, especially in the allergy season or when you happen to be out or exposed to dust. The eyes become very itchy and watery, and eyelid swelling is also common.
Chronic allergic conjunctivitis
This type of allergy can occur all year-round. It is a milder response to allergens like food, dust, and animal dander. Chronic allergy can occur in association with hayfever and asthma (also known as atopy), or it can be due to medications such as eye drops and preservatives in eye drops. Vernal conjunctivitis is a serious allergy that usually occurs makes the eyes itchy and watery and can lead to inflammation and scarring of the cornea, leading to reduced vision.
Symptoms of Allergic Eye Diseases
There can be a few symptoms of Allergic Eye Diseases that can be visible right from the early stages. Some of those symptoms are:
- Redness in the eye
- Swelling of the surface of the eyeball and eyelids
- Itchiness in the eye
- Watery eyes
- Discharge from your eye that prevents them from opening completely in the morning.
Causes of Allergic Eye Disease
An allergic response can occur in response to several different allergens such as:
- Dust mite
- Contact lens solution or medicated eye drops
- Entry of a foreign object in the eye
- Contact lenses
- Pets and animals
Complications of Allergic Eye Disease
There are several complications of allergic eye disease:
- Troublesome symptoms affecting day-to-day life
- Blurred vision
- Corneal scarring in severe cases
- Astigmatism caused by eye rubbing, which in severe cases can lead to corneal thinning and a condition called keratoconus.
How to Prevent Allergic Eye Disease
Many causes of allergic eye diseases are environmental factors like dust and pollen. It is practically impossible to avoid these factors completely. Therefore, what you can do to prevent eye allergy is to be cautious while you are outdoors and avoid whatever trigger your allergy.
If you have a dust allergy, wear masks and sunglasses when you are outside. You can also wash your bedsheets and linen regularly at the correct temperature.
Apart from following these direct preventive measures, there are a few other things that you can do:
- Do not touch your eyes with dirty or unclean hands
- Do not share handkerchiefs, towels or hand clothes with everyone
- Do not share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items
- Keep your eyes clean by washing them regularly
How Is Allergic Eye Disease Diagnosed?
Not all causes of red and watery eyes are allergy. An eye doctor can examine the eyes to look for typical allergic changes on the ocular surface (conjunctiva and cornea) and confirm the diagnosis of allergic eye disease and determine the severity.
A patient with eye redness and itching, with allergic changes (“papillae”) on the conjunctiva.
An allergy specialist might run a few tests to determine the exact allergen that you are sensitive to.
- An allergy skin test that exposes your skin to specific allergens and helps your doctor work out what is causing the allergy.
- A blood test to see if your body is producing proteins, or antibodies, to protect itself against specific allergens like mould or dust.
- A scraping of your conjunctival tissue may be taken in some cases.
How Can Allergic Eye Disease be treated?
Allergic eye disease, when diagnosed, need to be treated at the earliest to reduce the chances of worsening and more severe disease. You can take some measures at home to treat allergic eye disease.
Things that you can do:
- Stop wearing contact lenses if you do: Eye allergy is pretty common with people who wear contact lenses. Therefore, the first thing you can try is to stop wearing contact lenses until your eyes start feeling better. You can also contact your ophthalmologist for advice.
- Cool compress for your eyes: The very first thing that can be done as soon as you start facing a problem in your eyes is to apply a cool compress to your eyes. To make a compress, soak a clean, lint-free cloth in water and wring it out before applying it gently to your closed eyelids.
- Try basic eye drops: You can artificial tear drops in the initial stage of allergic eye disease. Certain eye drops contain antihistamines or other medications that can be helpful for people with allergic conjunctivitis. However, make sure that you seek professional advice before using any medicated eye drops.
When the allergic eye disease is significant enough, you might have to consult your doctor and go for professional medications.
- Topical antihistamine drops such as olopatadine or ketotifen
- Anti-inflammatory steroid eye drops: these have side effects and should only be used under an ophthalmologist’s advice and monitoring
Allergic eye disease can be troublesome. Apart from being physically evident, eye allergies cause itching, lead to swelling and constant watery discharge from your eyes. All these factors can get irritating if not diagnosed and treated in time.
You should primarily try to avoid the causes of the allergy. You should also try to be cautious with cosmetics, eye drops and creams that you use around your face.
If you continue to face problems with your eye, reach out to your ophthalmologist and follow the medications and prescriptions given by them.