Itchy, watery, red eyes could be a sign of allergies in your eye caused by your body’s overreaction to pollen, dust, dander or other irritants in the air. They may accompany sneezing and a runny nose. The constant itching and blurriness from ocular allergies won’t harm your eyesight, but as sufferers know, they can affect your quality of life.
What causes eye allergies?
The discomfort from allergy eyes is caused by the same airborne allergens that cause sneezing and a runny nose. By definition, allergens aren’t harmful, but your immune system overreacts to them which produces uncomfortable results. The immune response inflames the conjunctiva, the mucus membrane covering the white of your eye and the inside of your eyelid. You may experience allergy symptoms in your eyes alone, or also experience sneezing and a runny nose.
Common allergens are:
- Pollen from plants, flowers, and trees, which causes hay fever and seasonal allergies
- Pet dander
- Dust mites
How do you treat eye allergies?
Avoid rubbing your eyes. Eye-rubbing increases the itchiness and can scratch the cornea.
- Switching from one type of contact lens to another can sometimes cause a reaction, however, the reaction could be to an allergen in the contact lens.
- Wearers who suffer eye allergies may consider using daily disposable lenses in order to decrease the number of allergens that build upon the lens throughout the day.
- Be sure to follow directions on contact lens use while using eye drops.
- You can stay indoors on high pollen count days, or wear glasses, sunglasses or goggles to keep some of the allergens out of your eyes.
- Whenever you go indoors, wash your face to remove pollen.
- If you have year-round allergies to something such as dust mites or animals, wash your bedding regularly, dust and mop with damp tools, and vacuum frequently. You may also consider buying allergen-blocking mattresses and pillow covers.
- Wash your face and change your clothes after leaving a house with pets or other allergens.
- Saline eye drops or artificial tears can provide immediate relief by washing the allergen out of your eyes. Look for eye drops without added preservatives.
- Nasal sprays such as Flonase, Rhinocort, and Nasacort may help with eye symptoms in addition to nasal discomfort.
- Antihistamine eye drops may be helpful, as they treat the histamine that your body is producing in response to the allergen, and causes annoying symptoms.
- Decongestant or red-eye reducing eye drops aren’t recommended for long-term use because they can be less effective over time or could mask an underlying problem.
- Oral antihistamines can reduce your body’s allergic reaction but be careful using them, as many oral antihistamines will cause dry eyes and could exacerbate your symptoms.
If over-the-counter treatments aren’t providing relief, visit your eye doctor for more options. Your eye doctor may prescribe NSAID eye drops or corticosteroid eye drops to help severe eye allergies. NSAID is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can help reduce swelling. Corticosteroid eye drops can provide relief for a short time, but long-term use is not recommended because they can increase the likelihood of glaucoma and cataracts.
Are your eyes really red and sore, or are you experiencing whitish or yellow discharge? You may have a bacterial or viral infection and should visit your eye doctor.