What Is Allergic Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that lines the inner eyelids and the whites of the eyes (the sclera). Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by allergies.
There are three main types of allergic conjunctivitis:
- Acute allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction that comes on quickly when a person comes in contact with an allergen, such as pet dander. Symptoms of acute allergic conjunctivitis may be severe, but usually resolve within a day once the allergen is removed.
- Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis causes mild, persistent symptoms during a particular pollen season, such as tree pollens in the spring, grass pollens in the summer, and weed pollens in the late summer and fall.
- Perennial allergic conjunctivitis is mild, chronic, allergic conjunctivitis caused by year-round environmental allergens, such as dust mites, animal dander, and molds.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis?
Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis usually affect both eyes (though symptoms can sometimes be worse in one eye) and may include:
- Eye redness
- Watery discharge
- Eye itching
- Sensitivity to light
- Eyelid swelling (edema)/puffy eyes
- Feeling as if something is in the eye
- Problems wearing contact lenses
- Blurred vision
- Symptoms usually worsen when eyes are rubbed
Symptoms that may accompany the eye symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include:
What Causes Allergic Conjunctivitis?
Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by contact with an allergen that causes an allergic reaction.
Common allergens that may trigger allergic conjunctivitis symptoms include:
- Pollen from trees, grass, weeds
- Animal dander
- Dust mites
- Chemical scents from detergents or perfumes
How Do You Know You Have Allergic Conjunctivitis?
A doctor will perform an exam and ask about the history of the eye allergy symptoms. Tests used to diagnose allergic conjunctivitis include:
- Allergy skin test to determine the specific allergen that may trigger symptoms
- Blood tests to check for antibodies to specific allergens
- Scraping of the conjunctival tissue to examine white blood cells (eosinophils) that are triggered by allergies
- Measurement of tear levels of certain inflammatory mediators, such as IgE, histamine, and tryptase
What Are Treatments for Allergic Conjunctivitis?
Medications used to treat allergic conjunctivitis include:
- Combination antihistamine/vasoconstrictor eye drops
- Combination antihistamine/mast cell-stabilizer eye drop
- Antihistamine eye drops
- Vasoconstrictors eye drops (alone or in conjunction with antihistamines)
- Naphazoline, phenylephrine, oxymetazoline, and tetrahydrozoline
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) eye drops
- Corticosteroid eye drops
- Monoclonal antibody eye drops
- Ophthalmic decongestants
- Tetrahydrozoline, ophthalmic (Rohto Arctic, Visine Advanced Relief, Visine Maximum Redness Relief)
- Artificial tears/lubricant eye drops or ointment for inadequate tear production
- Altalube, Bion Tears, HypoTears, LiquiTears, Soothe, Systane, Tears Again, Viva-Drops
- Oral antihistamines
Home remedies for allergic conjunctivitis include preventing exposure to allergens as well as relieving symptoms:
- Keep windows closed when the pollen counts are high
- Dust your home regularly
- Avoid exposure to chemicals, detergents, and perfumes that cause symptoms
- Use an air purifier
- Avoid rubbing eyes, because that can worsen symptoms
- Apply a cool compress to relieve symptoms