Overview of allergic conjunctivitis
Allergic conjunctivitis usually occurs when a person’s eyes come into contact with an allergen, causing the body’s immune system to overreact.
When your eyes are exposed to substances like pollen or mould spores, they can become red, itchy, and watery. These are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is an eye inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to substances such as pollen or mould spores.
The inside of the eyelids and the lining of the eyebrows have a layer called the conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergens, especially during hay fever season. Allergic conjunctivitis is very common. It is your body’s reaction to substances that are considered harmful.
The eye becomes painful and inflamed. The overly sensitive immune system releases histamine and other active substances through mast cells. Blood vessels rupture or dilate and this irritates the nerve endings. The result was a bigger tear.
Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis
Most people with allergic conjunctivitis have problems with both eyes. Symptoms appear as soon as the eyes become allergic. In other cases, for example, if the eye drops cause a reaction, symptoms will appear after 2 to 4 days.
Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis:
- Red or pink eyes: Irritation of the eyes due to dilation of capillaries or small blood vessels of the conjunctiva.
- Pain: It affects one or both eyes. If a person has read and painful eyes, is sensitive to light, and their vision is affected, they should see a doctor immediately.
- Itching: They may itch because the eyes are irritated. The itching is aggravated by massage.
- Swollen eyelids: Eyelids can swell when the eyelids become inflamed or when a person rubs them too hard.
- Pain: The entire area of inflammation may feel sore and tender. It feels like some people hurt.
People with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis experience symptoms at certain times of the year, usually from early spring to late summer and sometimes late fall.
Types of allergic conjunctivitis
There are different types of allergic conjunctivitis.
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis
Pollen is a common cause of allergic conjunctivitis. Pollen is an allergen that causes conjunctivitis in countries with cold winters. If conjunctivitis is caused by pollen, there may be sneezing, itching, a blocked or runny nose, and other symptoms of itchy and sore eyes. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is also known as hay fever.
This usually happens during the spring and summer months. During this time, plants and especially grass, trees, and flowers are in pollen. Some people have symptoms in early fall.
Contact the conjunctiva
Also known as contact keratoconjunctivitis, symptoms are usually caused by cosmetics, eye drops, or other chemicals that irritate the conjunctiva in those who present. Contact with these substances can cause an allergic reaction. Some are sensitive to specific substances. Symptoms generally develop 2 to 4 days after contact with the substance.
Giant papillary conjunctivitis
Often this is due to contact lens wear. In some people, contact lenses can cause discomfort. It gradually becomes worse and uncomfortable, causing the eyes to turn red. Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) can also occur when a person wears hard contact lenses after eye surgery. Poor hygiene when handling contact lenses, solutions, and cases can contribute to eye infections.
Permanent conjunctivitis lasts all year. It mainly comes from allergies to house dust mites. They are micro-insect-like creatures that live primarily in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets. Dust mites feed on sprayed skin cells and prefer hot, humid climates.
Dust mite allergy is the immune system’s response to a specific protein of dust mites. It can cause a variety of problems such as asthma, conjunctivitis, runny or blocked nose, sneezing, and constriction of the airways. Other causes include small amounts of animal dander, animal fur, or bird hair or feathers. These can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
What causes allergic conjunctivitis?
You experience allergic conjunctivitis when your body tries to protect itself from the perceived threat. Responds to things that stimulate the release of histamine. Your body produces this powerful chemical to fight foreign invaders. Some of the substances that cause this reaction are:
- Household dust
- Tree and grass pollen
- Mould spores
- Animal dander
- Chemical fragrances such as household detergents or perfumes.
Some people may also experience allergic conjunctivitis in response to certain medications or substances that get into the eyes, such as a contact lens solution or eye drops.
Who is at risk for allergic conjunctivitis?
People with allergies are more likely to have allergic conjunctivitis. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies affect 30 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children and are often inherited.
Allergies are more common in children and adolescents. If you have allergies and live in areas with high pollen levels, you are more likely to have allergic conjunctivitis.
Diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis
A doctor can diagnose allergic conjunctivitis by examining the patient and asking about signs and symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. They should also rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. Anyone with the following symptoms should see a doctor immediately, as they may have a more serious condition:
- Sore eyes
- Sensitivity to light or photophobia
- Eyesight problems
- Very red eyes
In addition to allergic conjunctivitis, the eyes can become red with the following conditions:
- Infectious conjunctivitis: It is caused by bacteria or viruses. It is associated with the herpes virus and refers to a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- Acute glaucoma: Increased pressure in the eye. Symptoms appear more quickly. Untreated severe glaucoma causes irreversible vision loss.
- Keratitis: The cornea is inflamed and occasionally ulcerated. Sometimes corneal scarring progresses, resulting in permanent loss of vision.
- Erythema: It is an inflammation of the iris. If left untreated, the iris will stick to the lens and prevent a significant amount of fluid from draining from the pupil. The result can be irreversible eye damage.
The doctor will also check to see if any object or substance like the hair is irritating. If symptoms are severe or become severe, the doctor may refer the patient to an ophthalmologist or an ophthalmologist.
Anyone who develops papillary conjunctivitis after recent eye surgery can be referred to an ophthalmologist. The eye or eyes should be carefully examined to make sure the treatment is effective.
Treatment of allergic conjunctivitis
Avoid triggers by making changes in your home and your daily routine.
- Keep windows closed during periods of high pollen. Use air conditioning in your home and car.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Use a dehumidifier to control “mite-proof” bedding covers and mould to limit exposure to dust mites.
- Wash your hands after any pets.
- Control some symptoms with over-the-counter medications, sold without a prescription.
- Decongestant eye drops (do not use eye drops for “red eyes” for more than a week, or they may make things worse)
- Oral antihistamines (note that these can dry out your eyes and make your symptoms worse)
Consult an allergist for prescription medications, which may be more effective:
- Eyedrops (decongestants, antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, corticosteroids, NSAIDs)
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy)
- Stop oral antihistamines (note that they can dry out your eyes and make your symptoms worse)
Treating allergic conjunctivitis at home involves a combination of preventive strategies and activities to reduce your symptoms. To reduce your susceptibility to allergens:
- Close windows when pollen counts are high
- Keep your home dust-free
- Use an indoor air purifier
- Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals, dyes, and fragrances.
To reduce your symptoms, avoid rubbing your eyes. Cold compresses for the eyes reduce inflammation and itching.
In more problematic cases, home care may not be adequate. You should consult a doctor who will recommend the following options:
- Oral or over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce or prevent histamine release
- Anti-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory eye drops
- Eye drops to narrow congested blood vessels.
- Steroid drops for the eyes
Allergic conjunctivitis complications
Complications of permanent or seasonal allergic conjunctivitis are very rare. Allergic conjunctivitis affects a person’s quality of life but generally does not have a long-term effect on health. Sometimes problems can occur with keratoconjunctivitis and giant papillary conjunctivitis.
The cornea may be inflamed. This is called keratitis, and it causes ulcers to form on the cornea. This increases the risk of scarring and the possibility of permanent vision loss.
- Severe pain in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
- A feeling that there is something in the eye
- Water the eyes
If these symptoms appear, the person should consult a doctor.
Prevention of allergic conjunctivitis
The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to find out the cause and prevent the allergen.
- Common allergens are pet hair and pollen.
- If you have a pet allergy, try the following:
- Keep pets out of the bedroom
- Brush them regularly and wash them every 2 weeks.
- Wash your bedding regularly.
- If you visit a pet home, taking antihistamines an hour before can help reduce symptoms.
If pollen causes a reaction:
- Stay indoors when pollen counts are high and keep doors and windows closed
- Avoid areas with lots of grass, flowers, or trees
- Wear Wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes
- Changing clothes after bathing and outdoors
- Try to have someone else cut the grass for you
- Late afternoon and early evening when pollen levels are high.
If house dust mites cause a reaction:
- Avoid soft decorations like rugs and curtains.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter
- Choose anti-allergy mattresses and bedding
- Vacuum and remove dust often with a clean, damp cloth.