“Your immune system’s allergy response causes inflammation of the conjunctiva and results in swelling of the conjunctiva and bumps called papillae on the inner lining of your eyelids called the palpebral conjunctiva. These signs of ocular allergies are diagnosed by an optometrist.”
Dr. Mindy Blumberg
Eye allergies cause red, swollen, itchy, gritty, watery eyes. Eye allergies are most common in the spring due to increased pollen in the air. Airborne allergens contact the front surface of the eye causing an inflammatory reaction leading to itchiness and a gritty sensation. The treatments available for ocular allergies are cool compresses, artificial tears, and prescription eye drops to reduce the allergic response and decrease inflammation.
Ocular allergies can happen at any point in your life as tolerance to allergens can change. Common triggers of ocular allergies are pollen, dust, pet dander, and smoke. These allergens can cause an immune response when they encounter your eyes. Your immune system response causes inflammation of the conjunctiva and results in swelling of the conjunctiva and bumps called papillae on the inner lining of your eyelids called the palpebral conjunctiva. These signs of ocular allergies are diagnosed by an optometrist.
Treatment for ocular allergies includes avoiding the allergen by wearing eye protection like close fitting glasses and sunglasses when you are outdoors if you have environmental allergies. Avoid rubbing and touching your eyes as your hands may also carry the allergens. Cool compresses on your eyes for 5-10 minutes can decrease inflammation and swelling of your eyelids. Artificial tears work to create a tear barrier between your eyes and airborne allergens. Artificial tears also help dilute allergens to reduce the allergic response. The best artificial tears are preservative free, and some have an anti-allergy component such as Hylo Dual and Thealoz Duo. Daily contact lenses also help protect your eyes from allergens by providing a physical barrier over your cornea and can decrease the sensation of grittiness with blinking as they provide a barrier between your inflamed, bumpy eyelids and your cornea.
If allergies are significant an anti-inflammatory allergy eye drop can be prescribed. There are many types of allergy eyedrops but the most common one is an antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer. Antihistamine eye drops work quickly to decrease your immune reaction to allergens and mast-cell stabilizers prevent future allergic reactions. They are safe to use long term, but the antihistamine drops can exacerbate dry eyes. If you have dry eyes and ocular allergies, use preservative free artificial tears every 1-3 hours and continue your dry eye treatments throughout allergy season.