Allergies that affect the eyes stem from the same issue that causes all allergies – the body’s immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance. In this case, the tissues of the eyes react by swelling, itching, or burning.
The good news is that this type of allergic response is typically more annoying than dangerous, and there are a number of effective ocular allergy treatments that can relieve your symptoms.
What are the symptoms of ocular allergies?
Typically, eyes that are afflicted by allergies become red, itchy, or watery. Some people may also experience a burning sensation and an increased sensitivity to light. The eyelids, or even parts of the eyes themselves, can swell, and vision can blur.
If the ocular allergy occurs along with other allergies, the above symptoms can be accompanied by sneezing or a runny nose.
What causes ocular allergies?
The substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen, and many different substances can play this role. Some of the most common are pet dander, dust, pollen, and mold spores.
When tiny particles of these allergens get into the eyes, either by direct contact or by contaminating eye drops or contact lenses, the immune system triggers the symptoms that come with eye allergies. Since many allergens, such as ragweed pollen, increase or decrease with the changing seasons, ocular allergy symptoms may also be seasonal.
The ocular tissue that is most strongly affected by allergies is the conjunctiva, the very thin membrane that covers both the eye itself and the inside of the eyelid. It is inflammation of the conjunctiva that causes most of the symptoms.
How common are ocular allergies?
Eye allergies, also called allergic conjunctivitis, are one of the most common disorders that eye doctors see. They frequently occur alongside other allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma. Studies estimate that between 15% and 40% of the population experiences ocular allergies.
Are ocular allergies dangerous to my eyesight?
While extremely severe allergies can cause scarring of the ocular tissues that can decrease vision over time, this is rare. Most people with eye allergies will suffer no long-term complications in eye health or vision.
However, if the allergy goes untreated and the patient rubs their eyes frequently in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms, this can eventually alter the shape of the eye and lead to poor corneal health.
If I suspect I have an ocular allergy, what should I do?
The first thing you need to do is visit an eye clinic. The symptoms of ocular allergies can mirror those of more serious conditions, so you need to see an eye doctor to rule out infections or other potential causes.
There are many allergy clinics that can provide reliable testing as well as the best ocular allergy treatment for you depending on the cause of your allergies