What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

Most people suffer from if their eyes come in contact with any allergen. This condition is referred to as allergic conjunctivitis. Allergen is a substance that makes the immune system of the body to over reactive. The eye may become inflamed, sore and painful sometimes. Symptoms develop due to the overreacting of the immune system which releases histamines and other substances. This causes dilation of the blood vessels, resulting in irritation of nerve endings and increases secretion of tears.

Categories of Allergic Conjunctivitis:

Usually this condition is categorized into four. They include:

  1. Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAC or Allergic Rhinoconjunctivitis):

    In countries that have cold winters, pollen is the common allergen. If the conjunctivitis is due to pollen, you will experience the symptoms of hay fever. Symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, itchy nose, runny or blocked nose, sneezing and so on. If the conjunctivitis is accompanied with blocked nose, sneezing, etc, it is known as hay fever. This type is called seasonal allergic conjunctivitis as it occurs during summer and spring months when the plants, particularly flowers, grass and trees are in pollen. Some even experience in the early autumn.

  2. Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC):

    Usually, this is triggered by contact lenses. If sensitive people use contact lenses, they cause great discomfort to conjunctival surface is associated with giant papillary conjunctivitis. In some cases, it may even develop after the surgery if the patient uses contact lenses. Sometimes, even poor hygiene while handling contact lens may also result in eye infections.

  3. Contact dermatoconjunctivitis (Contact conjunctivitis):

    Usually this condition is triggered by eye drops, cosmetics and other chemicals that cause irritation to the conjunctiva, resulting in allergic reactions. The symptoms of this develop develop within 2 – 4 days after coming in contact with the allergen.

  4. Perennial Conjunctivitis:

    As the name indicates, perennial conjunctivitis persists throughout the year. This condition is primarily caused by dust mite allergy. Dust mites can survive well in the humid and warm environments and feed on the dead skin cells shed by the humans. Dust Mite allergy can cause other problems like contraction of airways, sneezing and blocked or runny nose.

Allergic Conjunctivitis – Causes:

Following are the most common causes of this condition:

  • Eye drops
  • Dust mites
  • Smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Skin medications
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfumes
  • Animal skin and secretions like saliva
  • Pollen from grass, ragweed and trees

Allergic Conjunctivitis – Symptoms:

Most people with this condition have problems with both the eyes. Symptoms develop immediately after the eyes come in contact with allergen. In some cases, symptoms may take 2 – 4 days to appear. Following are some of the symptoms:

  • Pain:

    Some people may experience pain in one or both the eyes. If your eyes are red and painful, seek immediate medical attention. Any person with red and painful eyes and has sensitivity to light, must consult the doctor immediately.

  • Red eyes:

    This is the most common symptom. The eyes become irritated because the capillaries in conjunctiva widen.

  • Itchiness:

    The eyes start itching due to the irritation. If you rub your eyes, the condition may worsen.

  • Soreness:

    The inflammation in the eyes makes the area tender and sore. Some say that soreness may cause burning sensation in the eyes.

  • Swollen Eyelids:

    The eyelids can puff up if the conjunctiva becomes inflamed or due to continuous rubbing.

People suffering from seasonal allergic conjunctivitis experience symptoms during certain times – generally from spring to summer and also to autumn. If the eyelids are dry or cracked and red, it indicated that the person is suffering from contact conjunctivitis. Giant papillary conjunctivitis and contact dermatoconjunctivitis are not seasonal allergies. Symptoms may develop at any time.

Allergic Conjunctivitis – Treatments:

Following are some of the treatment options for allergic conjunctivitis:

  • Antihistamines:

    Patients who are looking for quick relief from the symptoms can use antihistamines. In this case, the doctor may prescribe eye drops. Basically antihistamines block the effects of histamines that are produced by the body when your body reacts to a foreign substance. Some say that antihistamines make the immune system less aggressive.

    Loratadine, cetirizine and fexofenadine are the most common oral antihistamines to treat this condition. Ketoifin, azelastine and emedastine are the most commonly used eye drops for allergic conjunctivitis.

  • Mast Cell Stabilizers:

    The effects of mast cell stabilizers will be observed after a long period, but their impact lasts for a longer period. Along with these, some patients are also given antihistamines to get relief from symptoms. Nedocromil and lodoxamide are the famous mast cell stabilizers.

  • Corticosteroids:

    If the symptoms are severe, doctor prescribes corticosteroids. These medications reduce the swelling and reduce the immune responses of the body. These are very effective but must be used for a longer periods as they can cause side effects.

Preventive Measures for Allergic Conjunctivitis:

Following are some of the preventive measures for this allergic reaction:

  • Rubbing the eyes:

    You should not rub your eyes as continuous rubbing may cause inflammation and worsen the condition. It is difficult to control rubbing the itchy eyes.

  • Contact Lenses:

    Avoid using contact lenses till the symptoms disappear completely. If you used any medicine for allergic reaction, wait for 24 hours after the treatment ended prior to wearing contact lenses.

  • Avoid the allergen:

    Stay indoors if the pollen count is high in the air and close the windows. Wrap around the glasses if you are stepping out. Follow some measures to control dust mites in the home to control dust mite allergy.

  • Bathing the eyes:

    Immerse your face in clean warm water and open the eyes. This helps in cleaning your eyes.

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