If you are like me you can’t wait for spring, but along with the arrival of spring in Michigan comes the start of allergy season. Not only do I suffer from sneezing and nasal congestion but also itchy, watery eyes. Eye allergies also known as allergic conjunctivitis affects 1 in 5 people in the U.S. The conjunctiva, the tissue that covers the white part of your eye and lines the inside of your eyelids, acts as a barrier that is directly exposed to allergens in the environment. These allergens set off a reaction by your body’s immune system which mistakenly sees them as a threat. Your immune system, in its attempt to fight off the threat, creates antibodies that cause your eyes to release histamines resulting in the red, itchy, burning, swollen and watery eyes that we suffer with. There are two types of allergic conjunctivitis: Seasonal and Perennial. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is most common and usually begins early spring and continues into fall. It is caused by exposure to allergens in the air from pollen, mold spores, grass, weeds and trees. Perennial allergies are caused by exposure to such things as pet dander, dust mites, smoke, perfumes, and air pollution.
For contact lens wearers allergy season can be almost unbearable. Airborne allergens stimulate excessive production of natural substances in your tears which binds to your contact lenses causing blurred vision and discomfort. Certain eye drops can damage contact lenses so be sure to ask
Dr. Greenberg before you start any allergy drops.
Now you know what causes allergy eyes how do you deal with the problem? Ideally, you would limit your exposure to these allergen triggers that cause your symptoms but we know that’s not always possible. Here are a few tips that may help:
- Stay indoors when pollen is at its highest, mid morning and early evening.
- Run air conditioning in the house and car. Fans draw in environmental allergens.
- Wear sunglasses when outside to block allergens from entering your eyes.
- Limit exposure to dust mites by encasing your pillow and mattress in allergen-impermeable covers.
- Cover your windows with blinds instead of curtains.
- Keep the humidity in your home under 50%, this stops mold growth.
- Do not rub your eyes. This actually makes your symptoms worse.
Also, dry eyes may aggravate allergy eyes. Using artificial tears helps dilute the allergens and may help improve the defense function of your natural tear film. There are over-the-counter medications that can offer short-term help but for long-term symptom relief prescription eye drops are available. If you feel you are experiencing allergy eyes please schedule an appointment with Dr. Greenberg who will review your symptoms and prescribe the best eye drops for you.
Surgical Coordinator and Allergy Sufferer