Allergies are very common, especially this time of the year. Allergies present mostly in spring (starting in September) and autumn (starting in May) due to seasonal allergies to pollen. Perennial allergies are less common, and usually a reaction to dust mites and fungi.
Allergies cause severe irritation, but the symptoms do vary significantly from season to season, as well as year on year due to a varying pollen count. The mainstay of the symptoms are usually severe itching, but also redness, swelling and grittiness. It is very important to note that the symptoms are not symmetrical between the right and left eye. Many patients that present with allergic eye conditions, also have a history of other allergies like eczema, asthma, hay fever and sinusitis.
It is also important to note that for the better part, allergies are not detrimental to your health and will not affect your vision. Two important exceptions are vernal disease that occur in young adults and can affect a persons’ central vision. The constant eye rubbing due to itching in allergies is also associated with the progression of keratoconus. Keratoconus is a progressive thinning of the front of the eye that leads to vision loss.
The treatment of allergies is a step wise process. Avoidance is the first step, but often impossible due to our exposure to pollen and other airborne allergens. Often though, if the symptoms are not severe, treatment is not indicated, but initially lubricating drops will help for the grittiness. Cold compresses (ice folded in a dry towel will function well) are often very effective in relieving symptoms. Antihistamines taken orally will help for the swelling associated with allergies, but often eye drops will be necessary to alleviate the symptoms. Anti-histamines as well as mast cell stabilizers can be used with good success, but newer combination therapies that include the above as well as anti-inflammatory properties are very effective. It is worthwhile trying different medications for their effectiveness.
Allergies often present yearly at the same time, and if you suffer from severe allergies, prevention can be very effective. Starting with treatment two weeks before the symptoms usually present is very effective in preventing severe allergic reactions. It is usually necessary to use medication for the duration of the allergic season due to exposure to the pollen or other allergens.
For more information please feel free to get in touch.