When we think of having allergies we often think of symptoms like sneezing, sniffling, and nasal congestion. But allergies can have a profound effect on your eyes, too. Red, itchy, burning, and watery eyes, as well as swollen eyelids are just a few of the symptoms. The good news is that the same treatments and self-help strategies that address nasal allergy symptoms work for eye allergies, too.
“You may hear your eye doctor refer to your eye allergies as ocular allergies or allergic conjunctivitis,” stated Dr. David Hite, an optometrist in Commerce City who treats many patients throughout the year for eye allergies. “Eye allergies affect one in every five Americans and fortunately, while the symptoms they cause can be annoying, they pose little threat to your eyesight other than temporary blurriness and discomfort.”
On the other hand, red, itchy, burning, and puffy eyes can also be caused by infections and other conditions that do threaten eyesight. So, it's smart to see your optometrist if eye symptoms don't get better with basic self-help strategies or over-the-counter allergy medicines.
“Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, usually caused by an excess growth of bacteria that is ordinarily found on the skin,” explained Dr. Hite. “Sometimes it is caused by blockage of the eyelid's oil glands, and occasionally allergies are the culprit. Blepharitis is also the most common cause of dry eyes.”
Blepharitis is a common eye condition, causing the eyelids to be reddened, crusty and somewhat swollen and scaly-appearing at the base of the eyelashes. It can be easily confused with common allergy symptoms.
Eye allergies are caused by the body’s immune system. Your trouble begins when the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the whites of the eyes) comes into contact with something that, while actually harmless, is perceived by your body as a threat. Your immune system responds to this threat by making antibodies that cause your eyes to release histamine and other substances. That, in turn, makes eyes red, itchy, and watery. Eye allergy symptoms can happen alone or along with nasal allergy symptoms.
“Eye allergies and blepharitis are easily solved and with a little help pass quickly”, reported Dr. David Hite. “If you have questions about your eye allergy symptoms or if you show signs of blepharitis, you should contact your optometrist. If your allergies are persistent and not going away, that is also good reason to visit your optometrist."