Are Eye Allergies?
- Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, occur when the eyes react to substances that irritate them. These substances are called allergens, and when the body responds to them, it causes an allergic reaction.
- This type of allergic reaction causes red, itchy, and watery eyes. These symptoms can also occur along with asthma and skin allergies (eczema).
- Allergic conjunctivitis is different from conjunctivitis, which is caused by bacteria and viruses.
An eye allergy, also known as allergic
conjunctivitis, is an adverse immune response that occurs when the eye comes
into contact with an irritating substance. This substance is known as an allergen. Allergens may include
pollen, dust, or smoke.
The immune system normally defends the
body against harmful invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, to ward off
illnesses. In people with eye allergies, however, the immune system mistakes an
allergen for a dangerous substance. This causes the immune system to create
chemicals that fight against the allergen, even though it is harmless. The
reaction leads to numerous irritating symptoms, such as itchy, red, and watery
eyes. In some people, eye allergies may also be related to eczema
Over-the-counter medications can
usually help relieve eye allergy symptoms, but people with severe allergies may
require additional treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Eye
Symptoms of eye allergies may include:
- itchy or burning eyes
- watery eyes
- red or pink eyes
- scaling around the eyes
- swollen or puffy eyelids, especially in the
One eye or both eyes may be affected.
In some cases, these symptoms might be accompanied by a runny nose, congestion,
What Are the Differences Between
Eye Allergies and Pink Eye?
The eyeball is covered by a thin
membrane called the conjunctiva. When the conjunctiva becomes irritated or
inflamed, conjunctivitis can occur. Conjunctivitis
is most commonly known as pink eye. It causes the eyes to become red, watery,
Although pink eye and eye allergies
cause similar symptoms, they are two distinct conditions. Eye allergies are
caused by an adverse immune reaction to certain substances, such as dust or
pollen. Pink eye, however, is caused by eye allergies as well as other factors.
- bacterial infections
- contact lenses
Pink eye that’s triggered by a
bacterial infection or virus usually causes a thick discharge to build up on
the eye at night. The condition is also highly contagious. Eye allergies,
however, are not.
What Causes Eye Allergies?
Eye allergies are caused by an adverse
immune reaction to certain allergens. Most reactions are triggered by allergens
in the air, such as:
Normally, the immune system promotes
chemical changes in the body that help fight off harmful invaders, such as
viruses and bacteria. However, in people with eye allergies, the immune system
mistakenly identifies a harmless allergen as a dangerous intruder and begins to
fight against it. A substance called histamine is released when the eyes come
into contact with an allergen. Histamine causes many uncomfortable symptoms,
such as itchy and watery eyes. It can also cause a runny nose, sneezing, and
An eye allergy may happen at any time
of year. However, it is especially common during the spring, summer, and fall
months when trees, grasses, and plants are in bloom. Such reactions can also
occur when a sensitive person comes into contact with an allergen and rubs
their eyes. Food allergies may also cause eye allergy symptoms.
How Are Eye Allergies Diagnosed?
Eye allergies are best diagnosed by an
allergist, or someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies.
Seeing an allergist is particularly important if you have other allergy-related
symptoms, such as asthma or eczema.
The allergist will first ask you about
your medical history and symptoms, including when they started and how long
they have persisted. They will then perform a skin prick test
to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms. A skin prick test involves
pricking the skin and inserting small amounts of suspected allergens to see if
there is an adverse reaction. A red, swollen bump will indicate an allergic
reaction. This helps the allergist identify which allergens you are most
sensitive to, allowing them to determine the best course of treatment.
How Are Eye Allergies Treated?
The best way to treat an eye allergy
is to avoid the allergen that is causing it. However, this isn’t always
possible, especially if you have seasonal allergies. Luckily, there are
numerous different treatments that can relieve eye allergy symptoms.
Certain oral medications can help
alleviate eye allergies, especially when other allergy symptoms are present.
These medications include:
- antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or oxymetazoline (Afrin
- steroids, such as prednisone
Allergy shots may be recommended if
symptoms don’t improve with medication. Allergy shots are a form of
immunotherapy that involves a series of injections of the allergen. The amount
of allergen in the shot steadily increases over time. The allergy shots modify
your body’s response to the allergen, which helps reduce the severity of your
Many different types of prescription
and over-the-counter eyedrops are available to treat eye allergies.
Eyedrops frequently prescribed for eye
allergies contain olopatadine hydrochloride, an ingredient that can effectively
relieve symptoms associated with an allergic reaction. Such eyedrops are
available under the brand names Pataday and Patanol.
Over-the-counter options include
lubricating eyedrops, such as “artificial tears,” which can help wash
allergens from the eyes. Other eyedrops have antihistamine or nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications. Some eyedrops must be used every day,
while others can be used as needed to relieve symptoms.
Eyedrops may cause burning or stinging
at first. Any unpleasantness usually resolves within a few minutes. Some eyedrops
may cause side effects, such as irritation. It’s important to ask your doctor
which over-the-counter eyedrops work best before selecting a brand on your own.
Several natural remedies have been
used to treat eye allergies with varying degrees of success, including allium
cepa (made from red onion), euphorbium, and galphimia. Make sure to contact
your doctor about the safety and effectiveness of these remedies before you try
A cool, moist washcloth may also
provide relief for people with eye allergies. You can try placing the washcloth
over closed eyes several times a day. This can help alleviate dryness as well
as irritation. However, it’s important to note that this method doesn’t
directly treat the underlying cause of the allergic reaction.
What Is the Outlook for Someone
with Eye Allergies?
If you have allergies and are prone to
eye reactions, then you will likely experience eye allergy symptoms whenever
you come into contact with suspected allergens. Although there’s no cure for
allergies, treatment can help relieve eye allergy symptoms. Medications and eyedrops
are effective in most cases. Allergy shots might also be used to help your body
build up immunity to certain allergens for long-term relief.
Call your allergist right away if
symptoms don’t improve with treatment, or if you start experiencing large
amounts of discharge in your eyes. This may indicate another eye condition.