Allergic conjunctivitis involves inflammation of the conjunctiva which is triggered by an allergic reaction. The conjunctiva is comprised of a large number of cells from the immune system that generate chemical substances as a response to various stimuli. These chemical substances trigger inflammation in the eyes that can be brief or long-lasting.
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis and perennial allergic conjunctivitis are the most prevalent type of allergic reaction in the eyes. The seasonal type is often triggered by mold spores or weed, tree or grass pollen. As for the perennial type, it occurs all year and often triggered by animal dander, dust mites and feathers.
Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a serious form of allergic conjunctivitis where the stimulant is unknown. This condition is quite common among boys especially ages 5-20 years old who also have asthma, eczema or seasonal allergies. This type usually reappears every spring season and subsides in the fall and winter. Most children are able to outgrow the condition by the time they reach early adulthood.
What are the symptoms?
Individuals with all forms of allergic conjunctivitis can develop significant itching and burning sensation in both eyes. Even though the symptoms typically affect the eyes equally, it is rare for one eye to be more affected that the other.
The conjunctiva can become red and oftentimes appear swollen which provides the eyeball a puffy appearance. The eyelids can become intensely itchy. Rubbing and scratching can cause the skin of the eyelid to turn red, swollen with a crinkled appearance.
When it comes to seasonal allergic conjunctivitis and perennial allergic conjunctivitis, there is a significant amount of thin, watery drainage. At certain times, the drainage is stringy and vision is seldom affected. In most cases, the individual has an itchy and runny nose.
With vernal conjunctivitis, the eye drainage is thick, stringy and mucus-like. Unlike with the other types of allergic conjunctivitis, the vernal type oftentimes affects the cornea along with the development of small, painful sores. These ulcers can cause deep eye pain upon exposure to bright light and oftentimes result to lasting decrease in vision.
Allergic conjunctivitis is managed using anti-allergy eye drops. The use of tear supplements and avoidance of the potential allergens can minimize the symptoms.
The drops that contain antihistamine is usually enough for the mild cases. If not efficient, prescription antihistamine eye drops are used.
The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops can be used to relieve the symptoms. Corticosteroid eye drops have a more potent anti-inflammatory effect. Just remember that these eye drops should not be utilized for more than a few weeks without close supervision by a doctor since it can cause augmented pressure in the eyes, development of cataracts and high risk for eye infections. Additionally, antihistamines taken orally are also beneficial.