Eye Allergies

Getting a handle on eye allergies

Treatment and daily care

Spring is here, and with it comes allergies. Just like allergies can affect your nose and throat, they can also affect your eyes. Symptoms include itching, watering, redness, light sensitivity, and sometimes eye swelling1.

Allergies occur when your immune system mistakes something normally harmless like dust, mold, pollen, or pet dander as harmful and mounts an inflammatory response against it. For example, when a particle of pollen gets into your eye, it is detected by an allergy cell called a mast cell. These mast cells release mediators, such as histamine, in a process called degranulation2. This response causes itching but also makes blood vessels more permeable which can cause ocular redness and swelling3. Rubbing the eyes when they are itchy can actually make these symptoms worse by releasing more histamine.

Treatment primarily involves mast cell stabilizers and antihistamines. These are medications that help reduce the symptoms and relief the inflammation in the eye. There are many over the counter options to start with such as: Pataday®, Alaway®, and Zaditor®. Sometimes oral allergy medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra can also help.

Sometimes dryness symptoms and allergy symptoms can be hard to differentiate. Unfortunately, many people have both allergies and dry eyes and they each can be treated differently. At your eye exam, both will be checked. If you or a friend are having trouble with red, itchy, watery, dry, or irritated eyes, make an appointment with us today by calling us at 703-777-1299.

Additional resources:

1. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/allergies
2. https://www.aaaai.org/Conditions-Treatments/related-conditions/mcas#:~:text=Mast%20cells%20are%20allergy%20cells%20responsible%20for%20immediate,%E2%80%9Cmediators%E2%80%9D%20stored%20inside%20them%20or%20made%20by%20them.
3. White MV. The role of histamine in allergic diseases. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1990 Oct;86(4 Pt 2):599-605. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(05)80223-4. PMID: 1699987.