Regardless of the time of year, allergies can cause a huge disruption to your daily life. They can make you feel worn down, sick, tired, and downright uncomfortable. Allergies are irritating, but in most instances, not severe enough to cause long-term problems. However, identifying and treating eye allergies is essential to getting relief. Since there are many symptoms of eye allergies that mirror eye infections and more serious cases of conjunctivitis, it’s important to see your eye doctor for diagnosis. Once you determine the cause of your symptoms, you can use some of the ways discussed below to treat eye allergies and get back to your normal routine.

What Causes Eye Allergies?

Eye allergies occur due to your body’s immune system response to environmental triggers. These triggers develop when your immune system becomes sensitized to certain things in the environment or in food. Your body develops antibodies, which respond to the introduction of an allergen by producing histamine and other chemicals. Histamine is one of the substances that causes your eyes to react to allergies, often making them itchy, red, watery, and uncomfortable. 

Seasonal vs. Perennial Allergies

Seasonal allergies are some of the most common types of eye allergies that affect individuals. They occur at certain times of the year when allergen triggers are more concentrated in the air. This is often from pollen, grass, trees, and weeds, as well as mold spores. Perennial allergies occur year ‘round and are triggered by feathers, animal dander, cosmetics, dust mites, and other irritants. Both types of eye allergies present similar symptoms and it’s not uncommon for individuals to suffer from both seasonal and perennial triggers.

In addition to commonly occurring seasonal and perennial eye allergies, some individuals may experience vernal keratoconjunctivitis, atopic keratoconjunctivitis, contact allergic conjunctivitis, or giant papillary conjunctivitis. These are all different types of allergic responses that are rare but more serious than seasonal and perennial allergies. When left untreated, more severe allergic reactions can result in impaired vision, cornea scarring, and more. See your doctor if your allergies worsen or do not get better with over the counter measures to ensure that you can receive the proper treatment. In serious allergic reactions, you may require prescription strength medication for relief.

The Difference Between Eye Allergies and an Eye Infection

While most people who experience symptoms like itching, redness, burning, or even a clear discharge are suffering from eye allergies, there may be another cause. Eye allergies possess many of the same symptoms of certain eye infections or disease, which is why it’s important to work with your doctor to determine the proper cause of your symptoms. This is especially important if you try a variety of ways to treat eye allergies and find no relief. During your eye exam, your doctor will perform a few different tests to determine whether you’re experiencing an allergen or something else.

The Top 10 Ways to Treat Eye Allergies

In general, most eye allergies are not serious and will not cause long-term damage or problems. However, that doesn’t make them any less annoying. Dealing with eye allergies can severely disrupt your day-to-day activities and increase your discomfort levels tenfold. To help you get relief, here are the top 10 ways to treat eye allergies.

  1. Medications

    There are hundreds of different over the counter medications created specifically for eye allergy relief. They often provide short-term relief of your symptoms and can help you maintain your everyday routine. However, if over the counter medications are not working as you’d hope, your eye doctor can perform diagnostic exams to confirm the cause of your irritation and prescribe prescription strength treatment as necessary.

  2. Saline Rinses and Lubricants

    To help your eyes regain moisture and flush out potential eye allergens, use a sterile saline rinse or products created for eye lubrication. This can help reduce irritation and clean the surface of your eyes to minimize further problems. Look for eye drops that promote lubrication to provide ongoing relief throughout the day.

  3. Decongestant

    You may also benefit from using eye drops that have decongestant in them. While these eye drops may sting at first, the decongestant gets to work and constricts blood vessels to alleviate redness. However, avoid using decongestant eye drops consistently for more than a few days, as extended use can actually increase eye redness.

  4. Oral Antihistamines

    Another easy at-home remedy to prevent eye allergies altogether is to take an oral antihistamine daily. These are over the counter medications like Claritin and Zyrtec, which can provide long-lasting relief before your symptoms even begin. If you notice that taking oral antihistamines increases eye dryness, supplement with daily eye lubricating drops.

  5. Avoid Allergens

    The best way to treat eye allergies is to avoid the allergen altogether. While this may seem easier said than done, you can limit your exposure by staying indoors when pollen is at its highest, use special pillow covers, and wash your bedding frequently. If you have eye allergies triggered by mold, consider replacing your mattress.

  6. Wear Eyeglasses or Sunglasses

    Wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses can also reduce your exposure to eye allergens while you’re outside. This can block the direct flow of pollen into your eyes, but likely won’t give you 100% protection.

  7. Keep Your Windows Closed

    If you have seasonal allergies, consider keeping your windows closed to avoid letting pollen or other triggers enter your home. This allows you to avoid eye allergens while you’re sleeping and moving around inside, which cuts your exposure in half.

  8. Clean Your Home Regularly

    Even if you keep the windows closed during seasonal outbursts, taking the time to clean your house regularly is the best way to stay comfortable while you’re at home. Clean using a damp mop to avoid stirring up allergens and use a vacuum on carpeted areas. Make sure you dust all of the corners, fan blades, and blinds and wash your clothes and bedding often.

  9. Never Rub Your Eyes

    While rubbing your itchy eyes may provide minor immediate relief, as soon as you stop it’s going to get worse. Rubbing your eyes pushes the allergens further into your corneas and increases irritation. Try to avoid rubbing or touching your eyes and rely on eye drops for relief instead.

  10.  Get Regular Eye Exams

    To make sure that you avoid any infections or eye disease that mimics the symptoms of eye allergens, get regular eye exams. During these exams, your optometrist will test your vision and check for any signs of abnormalities, thus making sure that your eye health is in great condition as you age.

The optometrists at Val Vista Vision can help you deal with eye allergies, identify infections, and ensure that your vision remains strong over the years. With yearly eye exams, we’ll help you keep your eyes in good condition and administer prescription eye drops for allergies or infections as needed. Contact us today at 480-813-7050 to schedule an appointment or learn more about our services, from wellness and diagnostic exams to post-op and evaluation.