If you suffer from eye allergies, you are probably very familiar with the persistent discomfort of red, watery, itchy eyes.
At Wicker Park Eye Center in Chicago, IL, we provide allergy testing and can help you find a solution to relieve uncomfortable symptoms.
But how can you know if you have allergies?
Usual Signs of Eye Allergy: Continual Redness and Discomfort
Eye allergies often cause the white of your eye or inner eyelid to become red and inflamed. You may also notice a clear, watery discharge from your eyes. This is sometimes referred to as "allergic conjunctivitis."
Patients with allergies often experience a range of uncomfortable sensations, such as itchy eyes or a burning feeling.
In severe cases, allergies can also lead to blurred vision or sensitivity to light.
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Why Do Eyes Become Red?
Redness is one of several symptoms caused by inflammation, which is the result of your body’s attempt to respond to a foreign substance. An allergic reaction can cause your body to release histamines and other chemicals that nearby blood vessels swell. The defensive release of histamine can lead to allergic conjunctivitis and eyes that are watery, itchy, and inflamed.
Allergic Conditions Are Often Genetic
You are more likely to develop allergies if you:
- Have asthma
- Have a family history of allergies
- Are under 18 years old
Potential Complications of Eye Allergies
If you are continually rubbing your eyes, you increase the risk of scratching or injuring the cornea.
Irritated or dry eyes are also more susceptible to infections, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye).
At Wicker Park Eye Center in Chicago, IL, we empower our patients with education and clear instructions. Managing eye allergies requires an understanding of the trigger of your symptoms. Allergens, such as pollen, are any substance that causes an allergic reaction. The body views these foreign objects as threats and releases histamine and other substances in an effort to protect your body from foreign substances.
We often think of ragweed and pet dander as common causes of allergic issues, but eye allergy symptoms could be caused by non-biological sources. The allergens are generally classified into three groups: outdoor, indoor, and irritants.
This typically encapsulates any allergens that are most commonly found in an outdoor setting. Examples include pollens from grass, trees, and weeds, as well as other substances in the air, which can all irritate your eyes and cause a reaction.
This category usually includes allergens, such as pet dander, mold, and dust mites, which are more likely to collect inside your home or other buildings.
This category typically encompasses non-biological irritants in your environment that also spark an allergic reaction, such as exhaust fumes, perfume, and cigarette smoke.
Often, patients have a good idea of what is causing their eye allergies. If you are planning to visit our Chicago office, begin documenting substances that you believe could be potential allergens in the days or weeks before your visit.
If you deal with eye allergies, you are not alone.
More than 50 million Americans struggle with allergies.
*According to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Avoiding Triggers Can Prevent Allergic Reactions
While eliminating causes of eye allergy symptoms altogether may not be possible, simple steps can greatly reduce your exposure to triggers that cause your allergy symptoms.
Make Changes to Your Environment
Keeping your windows closed during high pollen periods can help you avoid allergens. Patients with seasonal allergies should especially avoid pollen in the spring. You should also use air conditioning in your home and car if possible.
Control Mites and Mold
There are a variety of products that can limit the presence of mites and mold in your home. Special bedding materials and cleaning products can prevent or remove these sources of allergy symptoms. Looking for products with the words “hypoallergenic” is another step that can leave your home free of harmful allergens.
Avoid Touching Your Eyes
An easy way to accidentally trigger an allergic reaction is by touching your eyes. If you have to touch your eyes or face, make sure to wash your hands first. Washing your hands is an easy way to prevent irritants from accidentally rubbing off on the surface of your cornea and causing pink eye.
Change Your Products
Changing the products you use, especially for your face, can lead to a reduced risk of eye allergies. Many patients are unaware that they regularly experience allergic reactions to mascara and other products.
We Perform Comprehensive Allergy Testing
Your examination at our clinic in Chicago, IL will include a careful test using a slit lamp. The microscope allows our doctors to view the surface and inner portions of your eye for signs of dilated blood vessels, swelling, and other signs of an allergic reaction.
It may also be important to determine which substances are causing your symptoms. A simple procedure called a skin prick test can determine which substances you are allergic to. Suspected irritants are spaced evenly apart over your skin. After your skin is sanitized, small pricks allow the substances to be placed on the skin’s surface. By watching for swelling and other symptoms, a member of our team can determine which irritants you should avoid.
In addition to forms of immunotherapy, like allergy shots, your doctor may recommend one of several treatment options.
Preventive Measures Can Relieve Discomfort
Change the Products You Use
Often, patients are unaware that they are allergic to the products they use on a daily basis. We offer allergy-free mascara and can help you find other hypoallergenic products.
Remove Your Contacts
Switching to glasses may relieve your symptoms. Contact lenses are convenient, but the surface of the lens can accumulate pollen. Switching to glasses can provide relief in those situations. Patients with seasonal allergies may consider switching to glasses only for the springtime.
There are a wide variety of eye drops (both medicated and non-medicated) that can offer relief from eye allergies. Our doctors have many years of experience prescribing eye drops.
Many patients benefit from taking medications to treat the underlying allergy or to address the symptoms. Common medications recommended include antihistamines, decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroids.