What is allergic conjunctivitis? This disorder is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the eye (“conjunctiva”) due to an allergy. Although many allergies can cause the problem, it is most often associated with hay fever brought on by seasonal airborne allergens.
How Common Is It?
Conjunctivitis is an extremely common problem encountered by millions of people each year. More people suffer from it due to allergies than from any other source. However, conjunctivitis can also arise as the result of a viral or bacterial infection.
How long does allergic conjunctivitis last? Although viral or bacterial conjunctivitis subside on their own within about a week, that isn’t the case when it is caused by allergies. It is not unusual for conjunctivitis to persist through the most active part of the allergy season – potentially weeks.
What Are the Ages Affected?
Individuals of any age who suffer allergies, especially those aggravated by airborne irritants, may experience this type of conjunctivitis. For most people, advancing age is not a significant factor in determining your susceptibility.
Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis
Is It Self-Diagnosable?
Conjunctivitis has a characteristic set of symptoms that are easily recognized, particularly among those who have faced the problem before. In general, it is difficult to mistake conjunctivitis for another condition, so patients are aware of it almost right away.
What Are the Symptoms?
The main symptom is a distinct inflammation and redness of the conjunctiva (the whites of the eye and the lining on the inside of the eyelids). The eyes will be highly itchy, with the itching tending to worsen with rubbing. Eyes will tend to water spontaneously and due to this, some people wake up with crustiness to their eyelids and eyelashes. In some circumstances, chemosis occurs, causing the whites of the eyes to become severely swollen and may interfere with blinking and eyelid closure.
You may rinse the affected eye or eyes with saline solution if they have come in contact with an irritant, such as pollen. Avoid rubbing an itchy and inflamed eye.
Allergen-oriented conjunctivitis has a tendency to appear in both eyes at the same time, but it does not always do so – if one eye is unaffected, avoid touching it. Wash your hands regularly in allergen-heavy environments. If you use eyeglasses, keep them clean as well.
If your condition stems from hay fever, you may be able to reduce the duration by improving indoor air quality. Keep windows of your home closed when pollen levels are high. Use an air purifier to lower particulate matter and be sure to change the air filter in your air conditioning or heating units, as these can trap pollen and other pollutants indoors.
Allergic Conjunctivitis Treatment
How is Allergic Conjunctivitis Treated?
Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated using OTC antihistamine eye drops and cold compresses. While there are several OTC antihistamine eye drops available to curb itching, those containing ketotifen are highly effective. Dose with one drop twice daily and remember to close your eyes following drop use to allow best absorption. Cold compresses can be used by soaking a clean cloth in ice water, then wringing out the excess moisture and applying to the closed eyelids for a period of up to 20 minutes. This can be repeated hourly.
What Type of Doctor Do You Consult?
An eye doctor is your strongest ally when determining how to treat allergic conjunctivitis. At times, a prescription-strength anti-inflammatory eye drop is necessary to provide relief of itchy, red, watery eye symptoms.
An immunology doctor can help you diagnose allergies so you can control exposure in the future. He or she may be able to suggest a course of action that lessens the severity of some allergies, too.
How to Prevent It from Occurring Again
There is no allergic conjunctivitis cure and patients cannot completely prevent it from recurring in the future, particularly if they have seasonal allergies. The best way to counteract it is to seek care from your eye doctor if you begin to notice any of the signs and symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis.