Spring is here and everything is in bloom! It’s beautiful outside and after being cooped up all winter (and quarantine), we can’t help but be drawn to the outdoors! But if you are like the roughly 20% of the population that is affected by allergies, you may have a different view. We all know about the typical symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and congestion, but let’s talk a bit about how allergies affect your eyes and more importantly, what to do about it!
Signs, Symptoms, and Types, Oh My!
There are two main types of ocular allergies:
1. Seasonal Conjunctivitis (hay fever) is the most common form and typically occurs in the spring and summer months when pollen from trees and grass is rampant.
2. Perennial Conjunctivitis, on the other hand, causes symptoms year-round with worsening of symptoms in the autumn and when exposed to allergens such as dust mites, animal dander, and certain fungi. Perennial allergic conjunctivitis also tends to have milder symptoms than hay fever.
Redness, itching, and watering are the most common symptoms and are usually in combination with sneezing and a runny nose. Some people also notice signs of eyelid swelling and bumps underneath the lids. But all of the signs and symptoms will typically resolve completely between acute allergy attacks.
But What Do You Do…
There are many over-the-counter remedies which can be very effective in controlling your ocular allergies.
Applying Cool Compresses will help control the inflammation, swelling, and itching. We recommend using a cool, clean, wet washcloth (placing in the freezer for a bit really feels great!) or a Bruder Eye Mask like the one here that we recommend.
There are also many over the counter Topical Eye Drops for ocular allergies, but we recommend Alaway or Zaditor. These drops are instilled into the affected eye twice a day during allergy season and can sometimes be used year-round if recommended by your eye care professional.
Nasal Steroid Sprays are often more effective than oral pills and liquids and can sometimes improve ocular symptoms of allergies because of how close the nasal passage and the tear duct are to each other. Some common examples include Flonase, Nasacort, and Rhinocort.
Of course, we can’t forget the Oral Pills and Liquids used over the counter to combat allergies. These options are systemic, which means they are going to affect the entire body versus just the site of allergy. Sometimes, even though they treat eye allergies, patients will notice excessively dry eyes which need to be treated with artificial tears. Some readily available brands include Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, and Xyzal.
I’ve Tried Everything But It’s Not Working!
When using the treatments above doesn’t seem to be working or you are getting worsening of symptoms to include eye pain, light sensitivity, changes in vision, and discomfort with your contact lenses then it is time to consider seeing your eye care professional. Your eye doctor can prescribe topical treatments with a much stronger effect and possibly even a topical steroid eye drop if needed, not to mention rule out other conditions that may mimic ocular allergies.
If ocular allergies are preventing you from enjoying the beautiful spring weather, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. Our doctors can help you get the relief you need, even during quarantine with telehealth! Don’t suffer, call now!