Also called allergic conjunctivitis or ocular allergy, eye allergy occurs when something you are allergic to irritates the conjunctiva. This is the delicate membrane covering the eye and the inside of the eyelid.
Like all allergies, allergic conjunctivitis starts when the immune system identifies an otherwise harmless substance as an allergen. This causes your immune system to overreact and produce antibodies called Immunoglobulin (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals which cause an allergic reaction. In this case, allergic reactions include eyes that water, itch, hurt or become red or swollen.
The most common causes of allergic conjunctivitis are seasonal allergens such as pollen and mold spores. People with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) normally notice their symptoms worsen when they go outdoors on days with high pollen counts. Eye allergy can worsen of nasal symptoms occur as the tears drain down the nasolacrimal duct to the nose. This is why your nose “runs” when tears, but if your nose is congested the tears poorly drain causing the eye allergy symptoms to worsen. Treating the nose with a intranasal treatment that relieve congestion help - such as Sinusol Breathe Easy.
Indoor allergens such as dust mites and pet dander can also cause eye allergies year-round. If you suffer from this type of allergy, you may notice your symptoms worsen during certain activities such as cleaning your house or grooming a pet.
Eye allergy symptoms can be very annoying. Yet they pose little threat to eyesight other than temporary blurriness. Unlike conditions such as pink eye, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.
However, red, itchy, burning and puffy eyes can be caused also by infections and other conditions that can threaten eyesight.
Allergic conjunctivitis is the medical term for eye allergy. Many of the signs and symptoms of eye allergy are not specific, because they involve the classical signs of inflammation including heat, pain, redness, swelling, tearing, irritation, stinging, burning, and photophobia (light sensitivity). Symptoms tend to improve with cool, rainy weather and worsen in warm, dry weather. The true hallmark of eye allergy is itching that can be mild or prominent, and it may last from hours to days.
Covering more than half of all cases, seasonal eye allergy is the most common type of eye allergy. Perennial eye allergy persists throughout the year. Dust mites, animal dander and feathers are the most common allergens. Symptoms are similar to those with seasonal eye allergy, and most patients with the perennial condition experience seasonal exacerbations.
A basic understanding of the eye's immune response coupled with an integrated, stepwise diagnostic approach between your allergist and eye care professional will help you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.