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Eye Allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis)

Eye Allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis)

Allergies can affect the eyes and eyelids and are very common in people with allergies.  Just as an allergen such as dust, molds, pollens, pets, etc. can cause nasal (allergic rhinitis) or lung (asthma) symptoms, it can also cause symptoms of the eyes.  This is called allergic conjunctivitis and is a very common cause of “pink eye.”  Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when an allergen causes the conjunctiva,(the clear covering over the whites of the eyes and under the eyelids) to become inflamed via an allergic/immunologic reaction.  Such reactions occur when the person is exposed to allergens such as pollens, pets, dust, molds, etc.  Patients that have a history of allergic rhinitis (hay fever)eczemaasthma, or other allergic conditions are more likely to have allergic conjunctivitis.

Other factors can cause similar eye symptoms, namely red or pink eyes.  Common causes of red or pink eyes include:  bacterial, viral, and/or parasitic eye infections; irritation from a chemical or foreign body; subconjunctival hemorrhage or bleed; anterior uveitis (which can be associated with a sexually transmitted disease or an autoimmune disorder).

The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis typically include eyes that have one or more of the following: redness; itchiness; watery eyes; thick sticky discharge; eyes feel like they are stuck together particularly in the mornings upon awakening; eyelid swelling.  It usually affects both eyes compared to infections which typically only affect one eye.  Unlike anterior uveitis, there is usually no photophobia (pain when looking at light or light sensitivity) in patients with allergic conjunctivitis.  The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal, intermittent, or perennial in nature.

The diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis can be made by seeing a board certified allergist and having him or her take a thorough history and physical examination.  Allergy skin testing and/or blood testing are usually performed to find the offending allergens.  Once the allergens have been identified and other causes of red eyes are excluded, a treatment regimen can then be entertained.

The treatment of allergic conjunctivitis is similar to its counterpart, allergic rhinitis.  The first thing that is recommended is for the person to try to avoid the allergen that is causing the eye symptoms.  This is not always easy or even possible.  There are numerous medications that can be given to patients suffering from eye allergies.  These medicines include various classes of eye drops, oral medications, and even some nasal sprays have been shown to be effective in alleviating ocular symptoms.  Allergic conjunctivitis occurs in both children and adults and the allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy are board certified in adult and pediatric allergy and immunology.  Special care is given to patients that have other underlying medical conditions such as glaucoma (elevated intraocular pressure), diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. as many medical conditions will affect the type of individual care we give our respective patients.  In addition to pharmacotherapy (medications prescribed), allergy shots (allergy immunotherapy) has been proven to be very effective In the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis, as it has also been shown to be highly efficacious for the treatment and prevention of allergic rhinitis and asthma.

If you or your child have been suffering from red, watery, itchy, puffy eyes, please contact one of our 3 office locations in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland metropolitan area so that we can schedule an appointment for you as soon as possible.  Black & Kletz Allergy has been serving the DC metro area for more than 5 decades and would be happy to serve you in an individual, professional, and caring manner.