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Allergic Conjunctivitis: Everything You Need to Know

Posted on April 14th, 2021

A common condition this time of year is allergic conjunctivitis, which is eye inflammation caused by an allergic reaction. While it may sound serious, it simply means you may have eye irritation due to allergies. The membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid and the eyeball is termed the conjunctiva, and during allergy season, that part of the eye gets irritated easily.

Conjunctivitis is also known as pink eye, but there are important differences between infectious pink eye vs. allergy related symptoms. Allergic conjunctivitis is not infectious, though the discomfort and visual cues may be the same.

In the spring, there are spikes in cases of allergic conjunctivitis as pollen and mold spores become more active, and the body’s immune reaction manifests in red, itchy, or watery eyes. It almost always appears along with other symptoms such as itchy nose, sneezing or asthma.

There are two types of allergic conjunctivitis. Acute allergic conjunctivitis is a condition that flares up during allergic spikes in seasons, while chronic allergic conjunctivitis is less common, milder, and occurs in response to things like dust, food, or dander, and often continues for longer stretches or time, or never fully resolves itself.

Causes of Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic Conjunctivitis can be triggered by your body’s defense reaction to the following:

  • Tree and grass pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Certain foods that contain pollen, like royal jelly or honey (note: not all honey has pollens)
  • Animal dander household products such as perfumes, cleaning products and chemical scents
  • Certain fabrics
  • Certain medications like eye drops or lens solutions

While symptoms to these irritants are often more a nuisance than serious problem for eye care, it is worth seeing a professional to ensure your care plan is correct and sufficient.

What Symptoms You Can Expect

Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are as follows and can occur in one or both eyes:

  • Pink or red colouring of the whites of the eye
  • Swelling of the conjunctiva and/or eyelids
  • Increased tear production in one or both eyes
  • Feeling of foreign bodies in the eye
  • Itching/irritation or burning sensations
  • Watery discharge from one or both eyes
  • Crusting of eyelashes or eyelids (this is more common in the morning)
  • Issues with contact lenses feeling uncomfortable or not staying still

People who are prone to allergies can be more susceptible to experiencing allergic conjunctivitis. In children, rubbing or irritation of the painful area may worsen symptoms and be harder to treat.

Treatment and Prevention

Working closely with your optometrist and allergist is key to ensure you get the proper treatment and optimal care for whatever is causing the triggers to start or worsen.  Often, antihistamine eye drops will be prescribed after the prognosis is made. Read our post on which eyedrops we recommend you use depending on what medical issue is. Preventing allergic conjunctivitis goes hand in hand with managing allergies, such as taking regular allergy pills or following the regimen your doctor prescribed.

See an eye specialist as soon as you feel any of the symptoms of pink eye, as it may be a symptom of other eye issues. Book an appointment for an eye exam at your local FYidoctors today.