Along with spring comes the dreaded spring time allergy season. Spring marks the blooming of flowers, grasses, and other plants which all release pollen into the air. For many people, this means the start of red, itchy eyes. If you are one of the millions of Americans who experience some type of allergy symptom every year, read on to learn how you can best prepare yourself for this spring allergy season.
Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, is a chronic condition that tends to flare up during periods of heavy pollen in the air. Allergies develop when the body’s immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance. Allergens include, not only pollen, but also animal dander, mold, smoke, or dust. When the eye encounters an allergen, it releases histamine which leads to the symptoms experienced.
Symptoms of eye allergies can range from mildly annoying to severe. The main symptoms are itching and redness. Symptoms may also include swelling of the eyelids, burning, and tearing. Many times, these allergy symptoms can lead to blurred vision and issues with contact lens wear. If accompanied by nasal allergies, you may experience a stuffy nose, itchy or sore throat, sneezing and coughing. Unlike other types of conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis cannot be transferred from person to person. It is also unlikely that allergic conjunctivitis will resolve on its own unless the allergen is completely avoided, which would prove to be a difficult task during the spring months.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to follow up with your eye doctor to create a treatment plan. Simple ways to minimize allergen contact at home include keeping windows and doors closed, washing hands with soap and water, and frequently washing bed linens and pillowcases. For many people, over the counter eye drops that are formulated to treat ocular allergies are effective in alleviating symptoms. At Coastal Vision, we often recommend OTC Zaditor or Alaway once or twice a day. In more severe cases, your optometrist will prescribe a prescription strength allergy eye drop or a mild steroid to decrease inflammation associated with allergies. For seasonal allergy sufferers who wear contact lenses, we often recommend that you switch into a daily disposable lens. Since a daily contact lens is thrown out at the end of every day, there is much less chance of allergen build up on the lens which will help to minimize symptoms.
Stay well and healthy!
Dr. Becky Zaydel