Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic Conjunctivitis Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Common symptoms are itchy, red, watery or swollen eyes. If the condition lasts for a while it may cause dry eyes too. Blurring of vision, pain and sensitivity to light may also occur in some patients. Along with conjunctivitis, patients can develop nose or sinus symptoms (also known as rhinitis), but conjunctivitis rarely presents as the sole symptom to environmental allergies.

Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the top-most transparent layer of the eye and is triggered by allergens.

A diagnosis is made through taking a thorough history and physical examination followed by allergy testing.

Allergy Testing: Most allergists perform skin tests to diagnose allergies. Skin tests are usually performed on the back in adults and on the arms in young children. The appointments usually take 1.5 to 2 hours and results are known at the end of the visit.

Blood tests can also be performed to diagnose allergies in special circumstances.

Treatments vary depending upon the severity of the disorder and specificity of the allergens in question. Such treatments can broadly be classified as follows:

Avoidance: Avoidance measures are available for dust mites and animals.

Non Medicinal: Application of cool compresses on eyes and abstaining from rubbing or scratching of eyes are helpful.

Medications: Antihistamine eye drops, anti-inflammatory eye drops, decongestant eye drops and combination antihistamine/decongestant eye drops are available. Some are OTC and some are available with prescription.

Oral antihistamines also help with symptoms.

Steroidal nose sprays used for allergies may help eye symptoms.

Rarely oral steroids are needed to control a severe episode of allergic conjunctivitis.

Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots Or Allergy Injections): Immunotherapy slowly desensitizes patients to what they are allergic to and improves conjunctivitis in addition to allergic rhinitis. Small and incremental doses of allergens are injected subcutaneously during the build up phase. Once the maintenance dose is reached, injections are continued for 3-5 years.

Q: What are the common triggers for allergic conjunctivitis? Many outdoor pollens specific to the Austin area, such as Mountain Cedar, Oak, Elm, grasses, Ragweed and molds, can trigger allergic conjunctivitis. Indoor allergens such as dust mites, cats and dogs can also trigger conjunctivitis.

Contact of eyes with allergens can happen either through the air, as with pollens, or through skin, especially in the case of pets or other animals, by touching the subject (for example, a pet) and then the eyes.

Q: How common is it? Allergic conjunctivitis affects about 20% of the population

Q: Are there other conditions that can present like allergic conjunctivitis? Viral or bacterial infections of the conjunctiva can cause similar symptoms. Sensitivity to contact lens solution can also cause similar symptoms.

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