Keeping an ‘Eye’ on Seasonal Allergies

For most Americans, the start of spring is welcomed by thoughts of warmer weather, beautiful flowers and picnics in the park. But, for the 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies, the early signs of spring more closely resemble sneezing, coughing and itchy, watery eyes.

Eye allergies, also called “allergic conjunctivitis,” are a reaction to indoor and outdoor allergens – pollen, mold, dust mites and pet dander – that get in the eyes and cause inflammation of the tissue that lines the inner eyelid.

While eye allergies can affect anyone, the spring can be particularly hard on contact lens wearers. Overnight wear and infrequent lens replacement are two of the main reasons contact lens wearers face more severe symptoms. Optometrists recommend contact lens wearers consider the following to make the spring season more comfortable:

       -Reduce contact lens wearing time when possible.

       -Talk to your optometrist about changing your cleaning method or using daily disposable contact lenses.

       -Use eye drops as prescribed by a doctor of optometry.

When it comes to treating symptoms of allergies, a recent nationwide survey conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA), found more than one-third (36 percent) of allergy suffers use antihistamines or other medications to treat their symptoms. While antihistamines can help with typical symptoms like runny noses and sneezing, the medication can make ocular symptoms worse by reducing tear quality and quantity.

To effectively treat and relieve the symptoms caused by eye allergies, patients should see their optometrist.  In most cases, symptoms related to allergy-related conjunctivitis can be relieved with prescription or over-the-counter eye drops depending on the patient and his or her medical history.

While eye allergies can be a nuisance and affect job performance, leisure and sporting activities, symptoms of allergies can be curtailed and prevented by following these recommendations from the AOA:

       -Don’t touch or rub your eyes.

       -Wash hands often with soap and water.

       -Wash your hair before you go to bed at night.

       -Wash bed linens and pillowcases in hot water and detergent to reduce allergens.

       -Avoid sharing, and in some cases, wearing eye makeup.

       -Never share contact lenses or contact lens cases with someone else.

Note:  Special thanks to the AOA for their contribution to this article.


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