Allergic Conjunctivitis

THE RED EYE

There are many different reasons for Red Eye and it is important to have an accurate diagnosis of this condition as the treatments will vary accordingly

In INFECTIVE CONJUNCTIVITIS there will be a marked discharge, a normal pupil, normal vision, and no pain or light sensitivity.

THE IRRITATED EYE

If your physician tells you that you have ALLERGIC CONJUNCTIVITIS, you may be wondering what this really means. The conjunctiva is the membrane lining the external surface of the eye, and it can become red, inflamed, watery and itchy; but it is important to recognize that there are several forms of conjunctivitis. SEASONAL CONJUNCTIVITIS symptoms occur at the same time year after year, and are due to pollen allergies. Trees pollinate in the early spring, grass pollinates in the summer, and from mid-August to October, ragweed pollinates. Mould spores can cause symptoms from the time the snow melts in the spring until it returns in the autumn and there is usually a peak in July. This condition is often referred to as allergic conjunctivitis. NON-SEASONAL CONJUNCTIVITIS symptoms can be due to allergens, irritants, or contactants. These include many cosmetics, hair sprays, perfumed products, clothes softeners, detergents, animal dander, bird feathers, house dust mites, and perennial mould spores. VERNAL CONJUNCTIVITIS is found in young males from the age of five to twenty and symptoms may include itchy eyes and a thick mucoid discharge. PAPILLARY CONJUNCTIVITIS symptoms may appear in people who are wearing contact lenses, and there may be a need to remove the lenses and follow prescribed treatment. Some people may also react to the cleaning solutions used with these lenses.

With ALLERGIC CONJUNCTIVITIS there will be itching, stinging, or burning of the eye as the main symptoms. You may also find that your eyes fill with tears, and may become bloodshot, and you have some swelling of the eyelids and the whites of the eye.

It is important to determine whether you are suffering from an allergic reaction or with some other eye condition and the following signs should be watched for

  • a painful eye may indicate another disease is present
  • coloured discharge points to infection
  • decreased ability to see, unless related to excessive tearing of the eye, suggests a complication or another disease

TREATMENT OF ALLERGIC CONJUNCTIVITIS

AVOIDANCE of the cause(s) is always the best treatment – for example, removal of the cat if this is the cause of your problem.

EYE DROPS for mild conjunctival symptoms, eye moisturizers and washing solutions are often beneficial and do not require a prescription.

For seasonal symptoms, preventive eye drops starting before the pollen season begins may be helpful. Directions should be followed explicitly as products differ.

For immediate relief antihistamine/decongestant eye drops may be used and some are available without prescription. These drops should never be used more than four times a day, and never for more than five continuous days without your doctor’s recommendation, since they could be contraindicated in some cases.

There are also eye drops for ultimate control and relief, and once again, it is important to consult with your physician before using any of these products.

Many of these products may take a few days to become fully effective and they must be used on a regular basis to remain so. It is imperative that users read and understand all information with these products. CAUTION: Do not touch the eyeball with the dropper when using eye drops – pull down the lower lid and drop the solution carefully.

You may find some transient burning or stinging with eye drops and this is normal; if, however, there is a persistent irritation, discontinue the drops and contact a physician.

Oral antihistamines may also provide some relief.

ALLERGIC CONJUNCTIVITIS is most often associated with allergic rhinitis (Hay Fever) and may be associated with asthma.

It is important to determine the cause of your conjunctivitis and in some instances, avoidance will be the best medicine. In the case of pollen and especially where symptoms are not well controlled with drugs, it may be necessary to consider allergy injections.

EYELIDS

The eyelids have very delicate and sensitive skin and are susceptible to many irritants and allergens. House dust mites, moulds, cosmetics, perfumed facial tissue, formaldehyde, carbon paper, and newspaper ink may irritate this area.

If the eyelids are dry and flaky, wash them with mild soap or baby shampoo; then apply a mild moisturizer or vaseline.

It is a good idea to keep a calendar of your symptoms to help you and your physician make a definitive diagnosis and help rule out other illnesses.


ALLERGY HOTLINE (416) 633- 2215
Information Notes are for information purposes only and are not intended to replace medical diagnosis or information. It is important to consult with your physician on any health matter.
We wish to thank Alcon Canada, Inc. for its support through an education grant.
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