Itchy, red, watery eyes are a common sign of ocular allergies. Many people experience these symptoms in pollen-heavy seasons such as the spring and fall. However, ocular allergies can arise at any time and can be associated with dusty conditions or any change in environment. While some people experience coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose along with their itchy eyes, that is not always the case. If you have suffered from itchy red eyes, read on to learn more about what is causing your symptoms and how to treat your eye condition.
Ocular allergies, also called allergic conjunctivitis, is a reaction in the tissues around eyes to allergens. Allergens are normally harmless particles, such as pollen, dust, or mold, that can trigger an immune response throughout the body. When this immune response occurs in ocular tissues, it causes the eyes to become very itchy, red, watery, and uncomfortable. While allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious, it can still be a very bothersome condition.
There are several different ways to treat ocular allergies. One of the most common approaches is using an over-the-counter medicated eye drop that can reduce symptoms by stopping the immune reaction within the ocular tissues. These drops are specific for ocular allergies and are more effective in treating itchy eyes than simple redness-relieving drops. If over-the-counter medication is not effective, your optometrist may prescribe you stronger allergy relieving drops or topical steroids. If you are experiencing coughing, sneezing, and wheezing in addition to your itchy eyes, it may be necessary to coordinate with your primary care doctor to find an oral antihistamine or nasal spray to help make you more comfortable. Treating systemic symptoms of allergies can oftentimes have a big effect on ocular comfort as well.
Part of treating and managing allergic conjunctivitis is preventing the symptoms from occurring in the first place. In order to do this, it is important to avoid allergens when possible. In pollen-heavy seasons, particularly the spring and fall, remember to maintain your furnace filters to prevent allergens from floating around your hope. If you are unable to avoid exposure to allergens, remember to thoroughly wash your hands, face, and the area around your eyes to reduce the risk of an allergic response. Contact lens wearers need to be especially diligent with cleaning and replacing their lenses during pollen-heavy seasons, as it is not uncommon for allergens to accumulate on lenses overtime. Switching to daily disposable lenses during high-pollen months can be an effective way to improve comfort and reduce symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis.
Contact dermatitis is a different allergic hypersensitivity reaction that can occur around the eyes. Sometimes topical products, such as a new shampoo, lotion, or cosmetic product, can trigger an allergic reaction to the skin around the eyes. Treating contact dermatitis may require topical steroids or anti-itch creams, or oral medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroids. If you experience contact dermatitis, be sure to eliminate the allergen from your daily routine.