How To Treat Allergy Itchy Eyes?
Allergies affect anywhere between 40-50 million Americans. 75% of the allergy sufferers have the common symptom of red, watery and
Swollen eyelids are also a part of the package.
Airborne irritants like pollen, mold spores, dustmites, pet dander are the most common allergens to attack the eyes. Cosmetics and drugs also affect the eyes. Antibiotic eye drops used for eye infections sometimes leave behind the discussed eye symptoms. Preservatives in eye drops prescribed for dry eyes also sometimes cause the said problem.
Why do we get red, itchy eyes?
Allergies are basically manifestations of a protective mechanism at work within our body. The body reacts to proteins and irritants which otherwise exist harmlessly in the environment. Allergens present in food, air, eye make up or anything else can affect the eyes. The body reacts by producing IgE antibodies. These antibodies react with the chemicals and proteins and throws the body in an auto immune mode. The body in response produces a chemical called histamine from the mast cells of the skin, pharynx and skin. Histamine causes the adverse reactions in the body. It irritates the eye nerves causing itching and redness. It dilates the blood vessels causing inflammation.
How to treat red, itchy eyes?
A wet piece of tissue or cloth rinsed in ice cold water can be pressed against a closed eye to get relief from symptoms of redness and itching.
Oral antihistamines available over the counter work by blocking histamine receptors and bring immediate relief. Antihistamine eye drops too bring in quick relief. Pheniramine (Opcon-A), Ketotifen (Zaditor), Patanol (Olopatadine) are common antihistamine eye drops.
Decongestant eye drops shrink dilated blood vessels in the conjuctiva thereby reducing redness, swelling, irritation and itching. Tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride (Visine, Murine Plus, Eyesine), Naphazoline Hydrochloride (Vassocon, Allerest) are common decongestant eye drops used. Decongestants inspite of providing fast and effective relief are not suitable for long term use. Taking decongestants orally also improves symptoms.
One can take a combination (antihistamine and decongestant) drug orally or go for a combination eye drop. Visine-A, Opcon-A, Naphcon-A are some common combination eye drops.
Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Eye Drops (NSAIDs)
These restrict the body from producing chemicals called prostaglandins which are released during an allergic reaction. They reduce redness, swelling, itching and discomfort. Nepafenac (Nevanac) and Acular (Ketorolac) are eye drops which belong to the said category.
Mast Cell Stabilizers
Mast cell stabilizers prevent the release of histamine from the mast cells of the skin, pharynx and skin. Azelastine (Astelin), Cromal (Cromolyn, Crolom), Emedastine (Emadine) are eye drops belonging to the said category.
This category of drugs or eye drops reduces eye inflammation by emulating the behavior of the the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps in proper functioning of the body in stressful conditions. Flomex ( Fluorometholone), Loteflam (Loteprednol etabonate, Lotemax) are the common ones.
Preventions for Allergy Itchy Eyes
- Always wear wraparound glasses when going outdoors to protect the eyes from airborne allergens. It would be a good idea to wear non prescription glasses at home when symptoms persist. There are a lot of allergens indoors too.
- Keep doors and windows closed during the season having a high pollen count in the air. Drive with your windows up.
- Install a HEPA enabled air filtration system to prevent allergens from circulating indoors.
- When outside, do not touch open surfaces. Pollen stick to open surfaces and can inadvertently reach the eye.
- Wash hands with soap before touching eyes or changing contact lenses.
- Maintain proper hygiene as per instructions laid down by the manufacturer when using contact lenses.
- If wearing contact lenses is aggravating the problem, stop wearing them for a while.
- If the allergen causing the reactions can be identified, the best solution is to avoid them.