is allergic conjunctivitis?
When your eyes are exposed to substances like pollen or mold
spores, they may become red, itchy, and watery. These are symptoms of allergic
conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is an eye inflammation caused by an
allergic reaction to substances like pollen or mold spores.
The inside of your eyelids and the covering of your eyeball
have a membrane called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is susceptible to
irritation from allergens, especially during hay fever season. Allergic conjunctivitis
is quite common. It’s your body’s reaction to substances it considers
What are the types of allergic conjunctivitis?
Allergic conjunctivitis comes in two main types:
This is a short-term condition that is more common during
allergy season. Your eyelids suddenly swell, itch, and burn. You may also have
a watery nose.
A less common condition called chronic allergic
conjunctivitis can occur year-round. It is a milder response to allergens like
food, dust, and animal dander. Common symptoms come and go but include burning
and itching of the eyes and light sensitivity.
What causes allergic conjunctivitis?
You experience allergic conjunctivitis when your body tries
to defend itself against a perceived threat. It does this in reaction to things
that trigger the release of histamine. Your body produces this potent chemical
to fight off foreign invaders. Some of the substances that cause this reaction
- household dust
- pollen from trees and grass
- mold spores
- animal dander
- chemical scents such as household detergents or perfume
Some people may also experience allergic conjunctivitis in
reaction to certain medications or substances dropped into the eyes, such as
contact lens solution or medicated eye drops.
Who is at risk for allergic conjunctivitis?
People who have allergies are more likely to develop
allergic conjunctivitis. According to the Asthma and Allergy
Foundation of America, allergies affect 30 percent of adults and 40 percent
of children, and often run in families.
Allergies affect people of all ages, though they are more
common in children and young adults. If you have allergies and live in
locations with high pollen counts, you are more susceptible to allergic
What are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis?
Red, itchy, watery, and burning eyes are common symptoms of
allergic conjunctivitis. You may also wake up in the morning with puffy eyes.
How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine your eyes and review your allergy
history. Redness in the white of the eye and small bumps inside your eyelids
are visible signs of conjunctivitis. Your doctor may also order one of the
- An allergy skin test exposes your skin to specific
allergens and allows your doctor to examine your body’s reaction, which
may include swelling and redness.
- A blood test may be recommended to see if your body is
producing proteins, or antibodies, to protect itself against specific allergens
like mold or dust.
- A scraping of your conjunctival tissue may be taken to
examine your white blood cells. Eosinophils are white blood cells that
become activated when you have allergies.
How is allergic conjunctivitis treated?
There are many treatment methods available for allergic
Treating allergic conjunctivitis at home involves a
combination of prevention strategies and activities to ease your symptoms. To
minimize your exposure to allergens:
- close windows when the pollen count is high
- keep your home dust-free
- use an indoor air purifier
- avoid exposure to harsh chemicals, dyes, and perfumes
To ease your symptoms, avoid rubbing your eyes. Applying a
cool compress to your eyes can also help reduce inflammation and itching.
In more troublesome cases, home care may not be adequate.
You will need to see a doctor who might recommend the following options:
- an oral or over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce or
block histamine release
- anti-inflammatory or anti-inflammation eye drops
- eye drops to shrink congested blood vessels
- steroid eye drops
What is the long-term outlook?
With proper treatment, you can experience relief or at least
reduce your symptoms. Recurring exposure to allergens, however, will likely
trigger the same symptoms in the future.
How do I prevent allergic conjunctivitis?
Completely avoiding the environmental factors that cause
allergic conjunctivitis can be difficult. The best thing you can do is to limit
your exposure to these triggers. For example, if you know that you are allergic
to perfume or household dust, you can try to minimize your exposure by using
scent-free soaps and detergents. You may also consider installing an air
purifier in your home.