I can tell from the number of patients seen with allergic conjunctivitis that Spring has arrived early – around the end of February. We always see our fair share of allergy eyes, but this is already shaping up to be a banner year. The spike in numbers of patients suffering with allergic conjunctivitis coincided with the appearance of pollen on our cars and that isn’t so surprising.
Those sensitive to allergen particles in the air may experience a rapid allergic response, because receiver cells release histamines upon contact with the surface of the eye. The release of histamine causes itching, redness, tearing, swelling and irritation of the eyes.
Though rubbing itchy or irritated eyes may seem reasonable, doing so will cause release of additional histamine – thereby increasing the itching and irritation. A far better solution is to wash your face and hands and apply a cool compress or cold washcloth to eyelids to calm the allergic response.
In addition, there are many over the counter allergy treatments and eye drops available. Select a product labeled as an, “anti-histamine”. Avoid drops that claim to “get the red out” as they only address one symptom and will not help resolve an allergic response. Inflammation or redness is not a condition, but a symptom of an ongoing issue.
To resolve the itching component of an allergic response, histamine release must be inhibited. This can be accomplished with use of an anti-histamine or mast cell stabilizer. Use of these medications will help block the response of histamines and prevent further release of histamine. Allergy shots and oral anti-histamines may also help year round allergy sufferers.
If our mild winter and pollen covered vehicles are any indication – this might be one heck of an allergy season. Trying to avoid the pollen in Hampton Roads is like trying not to get wet when jumping in a pool, so focus on managing symptoms is important. Should you require assistance with seasonal allergies, schedule an appointment with your Primary Care Provider to discuss use of anti-histamines. If your ocular symptoms are difficult to manage, be sure to schedule an appointment with your eye care professional for additional support.
Author: Dr. Theodore Hallberg