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Allergic conjunctivitis, also called eye allergy, is a very common eye condition. When the eye conjunctiva becomes inflamed, allergic conjunctivitis occurs. Causes of conjunctivitis can be allergy, infective or irritant. In this article, we will focus on how an allergic reaction will result in itchy and inflamed eyes.
Causes of Allergic Conjunctivitis
The tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and outside of the eyeball is called the conjunctiva. This tissue keeps your eyelid and eyeball moist.
When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, we call it conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva can become inflamed as a reaction to environmental pollutants.
Examples of these includes dust and dust mites, pet dander, mold pores and pollen, sometimes chemical scents from household detergents or perfume.
Allergic conjunctivitis are not contagious and cannot be spread from one person to the other.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
Risk factors for allergic conjunctivitis are
- Younger age group: children and young adults tend to get this condition
- Patients who have other allergic conditions like allergic rhinitis, eczema and asthma
- Eye Redness, itchiness and tearing
- Burning feeling of both eyes
- Feeling of dirt and grit in your eyes
- Swelling of the eyelids.
Allergic conjunctivitis can very commonly be associated with allergic rhinitis where you can concurrently have :
- Runny or itchy nose,
- Sneezing, coughing
Allergic conjunctivitis is a condition where you can treat on your own.
Step 1 : Avoid contact with the allergens that trigger your allergy
- Try not to touch or rub your eyes as our hands are often dirty.
- Avoid carpets, avoid cats and dogs.
- Avoid exposure to chemicals, dyes and perfumes.
- Keep your home environment clean by reducing furry toys, vacuuming and moping instead of sweeping.
- Use allergen covers or anti allergen linens for your pillowcases and bed linens. Wash them in hot water weekly if possible.
- Consider using HEPA air filter machines
Step 2: Eyedrops
- Saline eye drops to cleanse away the allergen and moisturiser from your eyes
- Over the counter anti histamine eyedrops for temporary relief. The recommendation is to use anti-histamine eye drops for less than a week.
Step 3: Oral antihistamine
If condition is bad, or if the conjunctivitis is associated also with allergic rhinitis, Oral antihistamine will be recommended.
However if the above 3 steps has failed,
- If there is blurring of your vision
- If the pain in your eye is getting worse
Please see your doctor immediately.
With proper treatment, you can experience relief or at least reduce your symptoms.
Understand however that this condition is a recurring one and allergen avoidance would probably be the mainstay of treatment.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)