Are Eye Allergies Any Different than Other Allergies?

Allergies have a broad range of components, but those who experience allergies may know of the specifics of eye allergies only too well. However, just like all the other aspects of allergies, it can be hard to pinpoint all the facts about eye allergies. So here is your quick reference on eye allergies, the how, what and why, and the difference that makes them stand out:

What are eye allergies?
Eye allergies are also referred to as allergic conjunctivitis and can occur alone or with other allergy symptoms. When your eyes are itching, tearing, burning or are red, you are probably experiencing eye allergies. The lids can also swell, but not everyone considers this part of the actual eye allergy. The most common triggers are pet hair and dander, dust mites, mold and pollen, just like any other environmental allergy. They are only different than other allergy responses because they manifest in the eyes; it is the same response and reaction that the rest of the body exhibits when encountering an allergen – histamine is released and the body overreacts to fight the allergen.

Is treatment the same?
This is where it can get a little different from other allergies. Because most allergy medication does it’s job by drying up the overreacting mucous production, sometimes allergy medication can actually make eye allergies worse by drying them out; it makes them more painful. The tearing is the body’s way to try and flush the allergen out. If possible, try a cold, wet washcloth over the eyes as this can help calm the irritation. Eye drops are one of the best measures and good to use in combination if you are taking antihistamines for other allergy symptoms. Some people like plain lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) while others prefer eye drops specific to allergies that have antihistamine properties in them and combat the swelling and itching as well as lubricate the eye.

Can you wear contacts?
Because allergy season can make it very uncomfortable to wear contact lenses if you suffer from allergies, it’s a good idea to put those glasses on instead of contacts. The allergens can get in the eye and under the contacts and make things even more uncomfortable and add to the irritation. Also, allergens or eye secretions can build up on contacts and make things worse, even to the point of eye infections.

Some people do have luck with disposable contact lenses which are only worn once a day. Because they are tossed every night, they don’t get the build up that long term lenses do. So again, just like with other allergy “rules,” they aren’t set in stone. Maybe a soft lens will work when hard contacts don’t. The bottom line is that if your contacts are bothering you during allergy season and making things worse, put vanity aside and put on your glasses. You may save yourself some bigger problems.

Can red, itchy eyes mean something besides allergies?
Yes! Pink eye or other eye infections may have the same symptoms. Usually other allergy symptoms are present or you know your trigger with eye allergies. If something seems out of place or no other symptoms are present, visit your eye doctor. It could be something else and will need to be treated as such.


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