Eye Allergies: Allergic Conjunctivitis

Conjunctiva and Conjunctivitis

The immune system produces proteins called antibodies/immunoglobulins to prevent intruders like allergens (substances that cause allergies) from entering the body. In the case of conjunctivitis too, when the allergens are spotted these antibodies are produced. The antibodies then make a trip to the cells of the eyes, causing an allergic reaction due to the release of chemicals by the cells.

This results in the inflammation or swelling of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is nothing but the transparent, thin, moist and delicate membrane (a thin flexible layer around the cells) that covers the inner surfaces of the eyelids and the white portion of our eyeballs.

The small blood vessels in the conjunctiva tend to swell up and become more visible. This causes the white portion of our eyes to turn reddish or pink. This is why conjunctivitis is also known as pink eye.

Types of Conjunctivitis

There are various types of conjunctivitis, namely -

  1. Bacterial Conjunctivitis
  2. Viral Conjunctivitis
  3. Gonococcal and Chlamydial Conjunctivitis
  4. Allergic Conjunctivitis
  5. Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis
  6. Non-infectious Conjunctivitis

However, we're going to put the spotlight on only one type of conjunctivitis i.e. Allergic Conjunctivitis.

Allergic Conjunctivitis - The 'What and How'

As already mentioned earlier, eye allergies are triggered by allergens. These allergy causing substances include pollen, dust mites and animal dander (microscopic flecks of skin shed of animals with furs/feathers).

When our eyes are exposed to these allergic substances, they tend to get itchy or watery and become red. This kind of allergic reaction to mold spores (microscopic and multi-cellular organisms)/pollen is called Allergic Conjunctivitis and causes inflammation of the eyes.

Allergic conjunctivitis is your body's way of responding to substances that it considers being harmful, and is quite common.

The occurrence of allergic conjunctivitis can be either seasonal or perennial (occurring all year round). It all depends on the presence of the allergen that leads to allergic conjunctivitis.

Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis

  1. Itchiness in the Eyes
  2. Red Eyes
  3. Watery
  4. Burning Eyes
  5. Puffy Eyes when you wake up in the morning
  6. Photophobia or Extreme Sensitivity to Light
  7. Tendency to constantly rub your eyes

People at High Risk

It is believed that people with already existing allergies are more likely to get allergic conjunctivitis. So, if you have allergies and live in a place where the pollen count is high, you're more likely to develop conjunctivitis.

Treating Allergic Conjunctivitis

Home and General Remedies

  1. Close windows when the pollen count is high
  2. Make sure that your home is dust-free and avoid going to places with a lot of dust
  3. Use an indoor air purifier
  4. Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals, dyes and perfumes
  5. Avoid rubbing your eyes
  6. Applying a cool compress/ice to your eyes can help reduce inflammation and itching
  7. Change bedsheet and pillow covers frequently
  8. Wash your hands properly after playing with pets
  9. Use sunglasses
  10. Clean the vents of the air conditioner

Medications

If the above remedies prevent from providing any kind of relief, you must consult your eye doctor and take medication only under a doctor's supervision. Here are some medicines that doctors normally prescribe -

  1. Anti-inflammatory/anti-inflammation eye drops
  2. Steroid eye drops
  3. Anti-allergic medicines/soft steroids/ lubricants
  4. Oral antihistamine to reduce or block histamine release

Taking steroids without a doctor's prescription is highly unadvisable because steroids can increase pressure in the eyes and can cause eye issues like -
  1. Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts - A type of cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye that compromises vision) that leads to the formation of a small and cloudy area below the lens of the eyes.

  2. Glaucoma - An eye condition that harms the optic nerve, further damaging vision.

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