Approximately 54 million people, about 20% of the U.S. population, have allergies and almost half of these people have eye allergies. Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva that is caused by a reaction to allergens. The inflammation causes enlargement of the blood vessels in the conjunctiva ("congestion"), resulting in a red, or blood- shot appearance of the eyes. In addition to the redness of the eyes, itching is one of the most common other symptoms. Other symptoms may include a history of similar symptoms during the same month of the previous year and also may be associated with nasal symptoms such as clear nasal discharge or itchy nose, sneezing, and sniffing.
In the Washington, DC area pollen, grasses, and ragweed are the main cause of seasonal allergies. Eye allergies that are not seasonal may be caused by other allergens such as pet dander, mold, feathers, perfumes, cigarette smoke, makeup, and pollution.
Living with eye allergies is easier when you know the cause and can limit your exposure. Your eye care physician can help you find the cause and recommend the right medication for you. In mild cases, over the counter lubricating eye drops can be used to wash out allergens and sooth eye irritation.
For most people, treatment of eye allergies with these lubrication drops needs to be supplemented with prescription eyedrops. If you are experiencing symptoms which you think may be allergy related, or if you are being treated for allergies and are still experiencing itchy, red eyes, please contact our office for an evaluation.