Allergies are extremely common and can manifest in a variety of different ways. Our eyes are very sensitive and are very prone to be affected by allergic responses. An ocular allergy occurs when the surface of the eye has an inflammatory reaction to particles within the environment that trigger your immune system.
Like all allergies, ocular allergies occur when your immune system identifies a harmless substance as something that is potentially harmful. These are known as allergens. As a result, your immune system goes into overdrive to try and protect you, producing antibodies that will travel to the cells that release the chemicals – histamines - causing your allergic reaction. This will trigger the symptoms of your eye allergy which typically include watering, itchiness, redness, swelling, and burning/stinging. However, exact symptoms and their severity can vary between patients.
There can be a wide range of different things that trigger an eye allergy. Some of the most common include:
Pollen (all types)
Your eye doctor will work with you to discover the cause of your eye allergy. This is important because avoiding the trigger is the most important step that you can take to prevent suffering from the symptoms associated with your allergy.
Here are some of the other ways in which it is possible to treat ocular allergies and reduce the effect that they have on your day to day life.
Although this is easier said than done since most of the time, we touch our face and eyes subconsciously, keeping your hands to yourself will help to reduce your symptoms. This is because you won’t transfer any potential allergens from your fingers to your eyes. You may be tempted to rub your eyes to try and stop the itching and irritation, but this can actually make the issue worse since rubbing them will trigger the release of more histamines.
Artificial tears are a useful and straightforward treatment to help counter the effects of eye allergies. They work by temporarily flushing allergens out of the eyes temporarily and most can be used up to six times each day. Preservative-free varieties can be used as often as is needed. However, some patients do find it inconvenient to have to take them out with them and apply them regularly.
Decongestants aren’t just for blocked noses. They can also help to reduce redness affecting the eyes, and if you choose one that contains antihistamines, you will also see a reduction in the itching and irritation that you experience. They are available over the counter, but long-term use isn’t recommended since this can actually make symptoms worse.
If your symptoms are moderate to severe, you may be recommended to take oral antihistamines that fight the histamine release that is triggering your eye allergy. These should be taken exactly as directed.
Steroid medications should never be taken longer-term or without the appropriate medical supervision, but they can be very helpful in reducing the symptoms of eye allergies. They are usually available as an eye drop that is administered once each day, but your eye doctor will talk you through the treatment.
Immunotherapy is usually the last resort for the treatment of severe allergies, or where all of the other solutions have failed. Immunotherapy involves regular shots of a medication that keeps your immune system under control, preventing it from overreacting to allergens. Again, you will need to be closely monitored if you undergo this type of treatment.
For more information about treating ocular allergies, please speak to our expert eyecare team in Cleburne, TX today.