Causes Of Eye Allergies

Many allergens (substances that can evoke an allergic response) are in the air, where they come in contact with your eyes and nose. Airborne allergens include pollen, mold, dust and pet dander. Other causes of allergies, such as certain foods or bee stings, do not typically affect the eyes the way airborne allergens do. Adverse reactions to certain cosmetics or drugs such as antibiotic eyedrops also may cause eye allergies.

Similar to processes that occur with other types of allergic responses, the eye may overreact to a substance perceived as harmful even though it may not be. For example, dust that is harmless to most people can cause excessive tear production and mucus in eyes of overly sensitive, allergic individuals. Eye allergies are often hereditary.

Allergies can trigger other problems, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) and asthma. Most of the more than 22 million Americans who suffer from allergies also have allergic conjunctivitis, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Allergy signs and symptoms

Common signs of allergies include: red, swollen, tearing or itchy eyes; runny nose; sneezing; coughing; difficulty breathing; itchy nose, mouth or throat, and headache from sinus congestion.

What causes eye allergies?

Many allergens are in the air, where they come in contact with your eyes and nose. Airborne allergens include pollen, mold, dust and pet dander. Other causes of allergies, such as certain foods or bee stings, do not typically affect the eyes the way airborne allergens do. Adverse reactions to certain cosmetics or drugs such as antibiotic eyedrops also may cause eye allergies.

Eye allergy treatment

Avoidance. The most common “treatment” is to avoid what’s causing your eye allergy. Itchy eyes? Keep your home free of pet dander and dust, and stay inside with the air conditioner on when a lot of pollen is in the air. If you have central air conditioning, use a high quality filter that can trap most airborne allergens and replace it frequently.

Medications. If you’re not sure what’s causing your eye allergies, or you’re not having any luck avoiding them, your next step will probably be medication to alleviate the symptoms.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications each have their advantages; for example, over-the-counter products are often less expensive, while prescription ones are often stronger.

Eyedrops are available as simple eye washes, or they may have one or more active ingredients such as antihistamines, decongestants or mast cell stabilizers. Antihistamines relieve many symptoms caused by airborne allergens, such as itchy, watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing.

Decongestants clear up redness. They contain vasoconstrictors, which make the blood vessels in your eyes smaller, lessening the apparent redness. They treat the symptom, not the cause.

In fact, with extended use, the blood vessels can become dependent on the vasoconstrictor to stay small. When you discontinue the eyedrops, the vessels actually get bigger than they were in the first place. This process is called rebound hyperemia, and the result is that your red eyes worsen over time.

Some products have ingredients that act as mast cell stabilizers, which alleviate redness and swelling. Mast cell stabilizers are similar to antihistamines. But while antihistamines are known for their immediate relief, mast cell stabilizers are known for their long-lasting relief.

Other medications used for allergies include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids. In some cases, combinations of medications may be used.

Immunotherapy. You may also benefit from immunotherapy, in which an allergy specialist injects you with small amounts of allergens to help your body gradually build up immunity to them.

Eye allergies and contact lenses

Even if you are generally a successful contact lens wearer, allergy season can make your contacts uncomfortable. Airborne allergens can get on your lenses, causing discomfort. Allergens can also stimulate the excessive production of natural substances in your tears that bind to your contacts, adding to your discomfort and allergy symptoms.

Ask your eye doctor about eyedrops that can help relieve your symptoms and keep your contact lenses clean. Certain drops can discolor or damage contact lenses, so ask your doctor first before trying out a new brand.

Another alternative is daily disposable contact lenses, which are discarded nightly. Because you replace them so frequently, these lenses are unlikely to develop irritating deposits that can build up over time and cause or heighten allergy-related discomfort.

Performance Eyecare conducts stress-free eye exams

Performance EyeCare STL Eye Examination

We understand the word “exam” can add some unnecessary stress to your life, so we wanted to share with you what a routine comprehensive eye exam usually consists of:

As noted by Gary Heiting, OD, and Jennifer Palombi, OD, the following is what makes up a routine eye exam:

Visual Acuity Test

This measures the sharpness of your vision and it’s usually performed with a projected eye chart to measure the distance visual acuity. It also consists of a small, handheld acuity chart to measure your near vision as well.

Color Blindness Test

This test can check your color vision as well as alert your eye doctor to any possible eye health problems that may affect your color vision.

Cover Test

During this test, your eye doctor will have you focus on a small object across the room and will then cover each of your eyes alternately while you stare at the target. The doctor then assesses whether the uncovered eye must move to pick up the fixation target, which could indicate strabismus or a more subtle binocular vision problem that could cause eye strain or amblyopia, known as “lazy eye.”

Retinoscopy

Your eye doctor may perform this test early in the eye exam to obtain an approximation of your eyeglass prescription.

In retinoscopy, the room lights will be dimmed and you will be given a large target (usually the big “E” on the chart) to fixate on. As you stare at the “E,” your eye doctor will shine a light at your eye and flip lenses in a machine in front of your eyes.

Refraction

During a refraction, the doctor puts the instrument called a phoropter in front of your eyes and shows you a series of lens choices. He or she will then ask you which of the two lenses in each choice looks clearer.

Based on your answers, your eye doctor will continue to fine-tune the lens power until reaching a final eyeglass prescription.

Autorefractors and Aberrometers

An autorefractor, like a manual refraction, determines the lens power required to accurately focus light on your retina. Autorefractors are especially useful in certain cases such as evaluating young children who may not sit still, pay attention or interact with the eye doctor adequately for an accurate manual refraction.

Slit-Lamp Examination

The slit lamp, also called a biomicroscope, allows your eye doctor to get a highly magnified view of the structures of your eye to thoroughly evaluate your eye health and detect any signs of infection or disease.

During this test, your doctor will have you place your chin on the chin rest of the slit lamp and will then shine the lamp’s light at your eye. The doctor looks through a set of oculars (much like a microscope in a science lab) and examines each part of your eye in turn.

He or she will first examine the structures of the front of your eye (lids, cornea, conjunctiva, iris, etc.). Then, with the help of a special high-powered lens, your doctor will view the inside of your eye (retina, optic nerve, macula and more).

The Glaucoma Test

A common glaucoma test is the “puff-of-air” test, technically known as non-contact tonometry, or NCT. (This test was immortalized on the hit TV show Friends, when Rachel couldn’t sit still for it.)

For NCT, the test begins with you putting your chin on the machine’s chin rest. While you look at a light inside the machine, the doctor or a trained assistant will puff a small burst of air at your open eye. It is completely painless, and the tonometer does not touch your eye.

At Performance Eyecare, we do not use the air puff. Instead, our doctors instills an eye drop and determines your eye pressure while looking with the microscope. There is no pain and this method is much more accurate than blowing air into your eye.

Pupil Dilation

To obtain a better view of the eye’s internal structures, your eye doctor instills dilating drops to enlarge your pupils. Dilating drops usually take about 20 to 30 minutes to start working. When your pupils are dilated, you will be sensitive to light (because more light is getting into your eye) and you may notice difficulty focusing on objects up close. These effects can last for up to several hours, depending on the strength of the drop used.

Once the drops have taken effect, your eye doctor will use various instruments to look inside your eyes. You should bring sunglasses with you to your eye exam, to minimize glare and light sensitivity on the way home. If you forget to bring sunglasses, the staff usually will give you a disposable pair.

Visual Field Test

In some cases, your eye doctor may want to check for the possible presence of blind spots (scotomas) in your peripheral or “side” vision by performing a visual field test. These types of blind spots can originate from eye diseases such as glaucoma.

Analysis of blind spots also may help identify specific areas of brain damage caused by a stroke or tumor.

Dry Eyes and Allergen Problems? We Can Help!

There are many unpleasant feelings in this world – an itch you can’t reach to scratch, having a hangnail or two, and, of course, dry, itchy eyes that never seem to go away!

Allergen problems are oftentimes hereditary and happen due to processes that are associated with other types of allergic responses. When an allergic reaction takes place, your eyes may be overreacting to something that they perceive as harmful, even though it usually isn’t harmful. These usually harmless substances that bother your eyes so much are called allergens!

One very common allergen that most people experience problems with is dust. It is harmless to most people, but in allergic individuals, dust can cause an excessive production of mucus and tears in the eyes.

Did you know that about 30% to 50% of all residents in the United States have allergy symptoms and problems? About 75% of those symptoms also affect the eyes!

What Are The Symptoms?

How do you know you are experiencing trouble with allergens? Here are the typical symptoms one experiences when combating allergens:

  • Red, swollen, or itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Itchy nose, mouth, or throat
  • Headache from sinus congestion
  • Fatigue and a lack of sleep

How To Deal With Dry Eyes

What can you do if you’re experiencing dry eyes and problems with allergies? We recommend the following tips to help you through allergen issues:

Avoid The Triggers – One of the most common pieces of advice given to those who suffer from allergens is to avoid whatever causes your eye allergy to flare up as much as you possibly can. If you have dry, itchy eyes, do your best to keep your home free of dust and pet dander, and remember to keep your pets off of the furniture. When the pollen count is high, stay indoors with the air conditioner on. During the cold months, use high quality furnace filters, which will trap common allergens. Be sure also to replace your furnace filters frequently.

Take Medicine – If you’re unsure what’s causing your eye allergies to flare up or you cannot avoid the allergens that affect you, your next best bet is to probably take some medicine to at least help alleviate the symptoms you might be experiencing. You can also take over-the-counter drops, but be sure to ask your doctor which kind of eye drop is right for you!

Use Eye Drops – Nothing feels as refreshing and alleviating as eye drops to dry, itchy eyes. Eye drops may have one or more active ingredients to help with symptoms such as antihistamines, decongestants, or mast cell stabilizers that inhibit inflammation. Be sure to talk to your doctor or to me about using eye drops for your dry eyes!

Talk to Me If You Wear Contact Lenses – You may generally wear contact lenses pretty successfully, but allergies can make your contacts uncomfortable or even unbearable. Airborne allergens can get on your lenses and can also stimulate the excessive production of natural substances in your tears. These can bind to your contacts and cause blurry vision and even more discomfort to occur. Ask us about eye drops that can help relieve your symptoms and also help keep your contact lenses clean.

Try Daily Disposable Contact Lenses – If you wear contact lenses and experience allergy problems, you may want to consider acquiring daily disposable contact lenses, which you discard at the end of the day. Because you replace these types of contacts much more frequently than usual, you are unlikely to develop irritating deposits that can build up over time and cause or increase any allergy-related discomfort you may feel.

If you’re experiencing dry eyes and allergy problems and would like to make an appointment, give your local Performance Eyecare office a call or schedule your appointment online. You don’t have to suffer from dry, itchy eyes – just come see us, and we can make your eyes feel so much better!

Allergy Season & Contact Lenses

Allergy season is extra harsh for those who wear contacts! It’s bad enough to have allergies, but to have allergies AND wear contacts can add extra discomfort to your life during the pollen season.

According to the American Optometric Association, more than 75 percent of contact-wearers suffer from eye discomfort caused by allergens. Soft lenses are likely the main culprit of the irritation as they function as sponges which keeps the allergens in the eye.

Tips for Allergy Season

So what can contact-wearers do to combat the allergy season? Here are a few ideas!

  • Switch to eyeglasses. It’s easier said than done for those who normally wear contacts from morning to night, but it might be the simplest thing to do. Allergens, such as pollen and dust, tend to stick to plastic surfaces of contacts, so wearing glasses should decrease your chances of an attack.
  • Contact-wearers should also wash the allergens out of the eye and moisten irritated eyes with artificial tears. It’s recommended that you don’t buy over-the-counter redness relievers to treat your allergic symptoms because most of those products are considered cosmetic-only.
  • How often do you clean your contacts? It’s recommended you clean your contacts more often and using a preservative-free solution to avoid allergic reactions. Those who wear disposable lenses should consider replacing them more frequently.
  • This might be the hardest tip: try not to rub your eyes. Rubbing will only cause it to get worse. Instead, place a cool, damp cloth over your eyes to reduce any swelling or itching. It might look weird doing this, but it won’t look as bad as having excessively red and puffy eyes.
  • The most important tip is to see your eye doctor. Allergy sufferers can choose from medical products specifically designed to protect their eyes. The doctor can also check to see if the symptoms are caused by a different medical problem.