Eye Allergies and What to do About Them

Perhaps you feel like there is perpetually something in your eyes, or maybe your eyes are maddeningly itchy and producing a watery discharge. These are all uncomfortable symptoms that may be traced to allergic conjunctivitis. Most everyone knows that allergies can wreak havoc in the nasal passages, causing sneezing and a runny or stuffed-up nose, but they can also irritate the eyes.

Eye Allergies treatment

(Pixabay / Helmut_Strasil)

What do allergies have to do with my eyes?

So how does something like a pollen granule or pet dander cause allergy symptoms in your eyes? Well, instead of ignoring these harmless allergens like it should, your immune system gets skittish and fears that they will compromise the body, much like germs or bacteria do. Your immune system then goes on the defensive, unleashing an arsenal of chemicals into the body. Unfortunately, these chemicals, which include histamine, only end up making you miserable. They cause inflammation of the eye tissues, which accounts for the discomfort and itching that you are feeling. Allergic inflammation can also make your eyes appear red or pink because it enlarges the blood vessels in the eye, hence the term “pink eye.”

When eye allergies strike, your immune system may be reacting to pollens, which tend to be especially high in spring and fall. They may also be reacting to mold, pets, or dust. Eye allergies can also be triggered by perfumes or cosmetics. While food allergies can cause a host of allergy symptoms, they are not as likely to cause allergic conjunctivitis.

Do I have allergic conjunctivitis?

In addition to itching or irritation of the eye, redness, and excessive tear production, allergic conjunctivitis is often accompanied by nasal allergy symptoms. Also, allergic conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes. If only one eye is affected, talk to your doctor as you may have some other form of conjunctivitis, such as viral or bacterial.

The discomfort you are feeling from your eye allergies may cause you to draw your hands up to your eyes to itch or rub them. This can increase the chances for eye infections that result in a mucous discharge coming from eyes and crusting the rims of your eyelids.

What are my treatment options?

If allergies are making your eyes feel miserable, you don’t have to live with them. You can try eliminating certain products, such as cosmetics, if you think they are the culprit. If you suspect that seasonal allergens are to blame, talk to your doctor about medications that can relieve your symptoms. If your eye allergies persist or aren’t adequately relieved by medications, you may be a candidate for allergy immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy (oral allergy drops). Immunotherapy doesn’t just address your symptoms for temporary relief—it desensitizes your body to allergens in the environment for long-term results. Once your body makes peace with these allergens through immunotherapy, it can stop overreacting to them in ways that lead to uncomfortable eye allergy symptoms.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.