Are seasonal allergies proving to be an annoying eye irritation or making you outright miserable? You’re not alone. An estimated 25 million Americans experience what could be called “immune-system defenses gone wild,” otherwise known as an allergic reaction.
When the usual suspects (pollen, dust, pet dander, mold, or certain foods) trigger an over-active immune system to mobilize its defenses, you become the collateral damage of an internal “cold war”, struggling with symptoms well-known to allergy sufferers: itchy, irritated, watery eyes, runny nose, and possibly even hives or rashes.
What interventions and treatments are most effective in easing allergy symptoms and helping you get back to your best self again? There’s a host of helpful things you can do.
First and foremost, when it comes to easing allergy symptoms, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so identifying and avoiding the triggering allergen should constitute your first line of defense. Limiting – or eliminating – your exposure by staying inside on peak pollen days and investing in a quality air purifier can pay big dividends. And immunotherapy, a treatment administered by an allergy specialist, can help you build up your resistance over time to irritants that would otherwise trigger an allergic reaction.
Contact lenses can prove particularly bothersome during allergy season for some wearers due to their tendency to attract airborne allergens. If you’ve got a choice, consider switching to glasses during allergy season and choosing a pair with light-shielding photochromic lenses. If you’re not keen on the idea of glasses, you might opt for daily wear contact lenses which never accumulate allergen build-up due to their extremely short use-life.
If your allergy symptoms are on the mild side, over-the-counter eye drops can be an effective quick-fix for allergy-irritated eyes to quickly relieve redness, itchiness, and tearing. On the other hand, if you’ve tried OTC remedies to no avail, it may be time to bring out the big guns of prescription medications.
The most common medications used to treat eye allergies are antihistamines, decongestants, and mast cell stabilizers, followed by less commonly used non-steroidal inflammatory drugs and steroids.
- The immune system’s natural response to inflammation is to release histamine, a compound that dilates blood vessels and increases the permeability of blood vessel walls. Ironically, histamines fight inflammation but when released in excess actually produce it, leading to uncomfortable symptoms. Antihistamines attenuate symptoms by preventing the histamines from attaching to the cells that produce an allergic reaction.
- Decongestants do exactly what their name suggests: minimize congestion by shrinking swollen nasal passages. They also decrease the size of blood vessels on the white portion of the eye to combat redness. For a treatment that packs twice the punch, look for medications with a combination of decongestant and antihistamine.
- Mast cell stabilizers induce alterations in mast cells that prevent them from releasing histamine and related mediators of allergic reactions. Because the effects of mast cell stabilizers are generally not seen for several weeks, they are not suitable for treating acute conditions and need to be used in advance of allergy season to prevent or decrease the severity of anticipated allergic reactions.
If you’re experiencing uncomfortable allergy-induced eye irritation and other symptoms, there’s no reason you can’t experience significant relief. With literally dozens of effective remedies, it’s simply a matter of finding the one that’s right for you. Whether you’re experiencing eye-irritating allergies for the first time or whether you’ve struggled with them for years, your eye care specialist can ensure you find a solution that works.
At OCLI we’re full-service vision health providers who can help you with all of your eyecare needs. Give us a call today and see why we’re known as being the friendliest, most comprehensive, and most advanced eye care providers around!