Allergic conjunctivitis, or eye allergies, happen when the eyes react to something that irritates them. When the eyes try to defend your body from an allergen it triggers the release of histamine from mast cells. As a result, your eyes (usually the eyelids and conjunctiva) become red, swollen, watery, and itchy. You may also wake up in the morning with puffy eyes. People who have eye allergies commonly have nasal allergies as well which causes stuffy nose and sneezing. Both conditions are closely related to seasonal allergies.
What are symptoms of eye allergies?
The most common eye allergy symptoms include:
- Itching and watery discharge (teary eyes)
- Redness and puffy eyelids
- Sensitivity to light
If it’s related to seasonal allergies then both eyes are usually involved. Unlike pink eyes, eye allergies do not spread from person to person.
What causes eye allergies?
Some of the common allergens include:
- Household dust
- pollen from trees and grass
- pet dander
- Chemical scents such as detergents or perfume
Allergic reactions to perfume, cosmetics or drugs can also cause the eyes to have an allergic response. Some people may have an acute allergic reaction to a new facial product or an eye drop.
Sometimes, the eyes can react to other allergens that don’t necessarily come in direct contact with the eye. These can include specific foods or insect bites or stings.
Most allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with oral or over the counter antihistamine medication, anti-allergy eye drops, or steroid eye drops.
However, not all red and itchy eyes are caused by allergic conjunctivitis. Some people may think they have an eye allergy but in fact they have dry eyes or other types of inflammations. It is important for you to visit your eye care provider to get the proper diagnosis and treatment for your problem.