Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye.
Allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction to irritants in the air like pollen and smoke, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes.
Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis could be any of the following:
- A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
- Itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Discharge coming from one or both eyes (watery or goopy)
- Swollen eyelids
- Pink discoloration to the whites of one or both eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
Allergic Conjunctivitis occurs more commonly among people who already have seasonal allergies. At some point they come into contact with a substance that triggers an allergic reaction in their eyes.
Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC) is a type of allergic conjunctivitis caused by the chronic presence of a foreign body in the eye. This condition occurs predominantly with people who wear hard or rigid contact lenses, wear soft contact lenses that are not replaced frequently, have an exposed suture on the surface or the eye from surgery, or have a glass eye.
Treatment of allergic conjunctivitis is broken down into three main goals:
- To increase patient comfort.
- To reduce or lessen the course of the inflammation.
- To prevent the reoccurrence of the conjunctivitis.
The first step of treatment should be to remove or avoid the irritant, if possible. Cool compresses, artificial tears, or OTC antihistamines sometimes relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines may be prescribed. Cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis may also require topical steroid eye drops. Avoid drops that have a vasoconstricting component added to them; those are mostly the drops that claim to get the red out; over time these drops will only make your eye redder. This type of OTC drops only mask the condition not treat it. During an allergic conjunctivitis, avoid rubbing your eyes. Instead of warm compresses, use cool compresses to soothe your eyes. Over the counter eye drops are available. Antihistamine eye drops should help to alleviate the symptoms, and lubricating eye drops help to rinse the allergen off of the surface of the eye.
If the conjunctivitis developed due to wearing contact lenses, your eye doctor may recommend that you switch to a different type of contact lens or disinfection solution. Your optometrist might need to alter your contact lens prescription to a type of lens that you replace more frequently to prevent the conjunctivitis from recurring.
Author: Dr. Ryan Bauer
1541 South 8th Street, Colorado Springs CO