Symptoms and Signs of Eye Allergies

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 12/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Eye Allergies

Allergic reactions to environmental agents that involve the eyes are common. An allergic reaction that affects the conjunctiva, a clear layer of the mucous membrane overlying the eyes, is referred to as allergic conjunctivitis, which is divided into several subtypes, with the most common being seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) and perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC). SAC and PAC are triggered when someone who is allergic to a particular substance, such as pollen, is exposed to it. Common allergens include trees, grasses, weeds, dust mites, pets (especially cats and dogs), and molds.

Symptoms of allergic reactions that affect the eyes include

  • itchy eyes,
  • watery eyes,
  • red eyes,
  • swollen eyes,
  • burning sensation, and
  • mattering and/or mucous production.

Symptoms of pain, blurred vision, double vision, or changes in vision are not typical eye allergy symptoms and require medical attention.

What Is the Treatment for Eye Allergies?

Treatment for eye allergies consists of avoidance of allergens, medications to treat symptoms and decrease the severity of allergic reactions, and desensitizing your eyes to allergens.

Avoidance of allergens can be achieved with some lifestyle modifications such as:

  • Know what pollens or molds trigger your symptoms and avoid them 
  • Stay indoors when known allergen levels are high 
  • Use dust filters on home air conditioning units and change them frequently 
  • Wear glasses when outside in a high allergen area 
  • Wash bedding frequently 
  • Use a dehumidifier in your home 
  • Clean and vacuum your house regularly

Medications can be used to treat the symptoms of eye allergies and to decrease the severity of the allergic reaction. These medications include:

  • Tear substitutes
  • Decongestant eyedrops
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Mast cell stabilizers
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) eyedrops 
  • Corticosteroid eyedrops
  • Nonsedating oral antihistamines 

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) help decrease the body’s reaction to allergens. The treatment takes several months to achieve maximum results, and you may still be required to use medications to alleviate symptoms.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.