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Allergies – Q&A

Questions & Answers on Allergies

What are the common symptoms of allergies:



Clear, watery discharge

How do allergies directly affect the eyes?

People with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) may have dark circles (known as allergic shiners or Denny's lines) under their eyes. The eyelids may be swollen, and bright lights may be bothersome. SAC symptoms often accompany systemic symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion.  Itching may become so bothersome that patients rub their eyes frequently, making symptoms worse and potentially causing infection.

What is meant by the term allergic conjunctivitis? Is that the same as “pink eye”?

An allergy is an expression of inflammation. Eye allergies develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something (known as an allergen) in the environment that may not bother other people. An allergic reaction occurs when an allergen comes in contact with antibodies attached to the mast cells in your eyes.  Mast cells respond by releasing histamine and other substances that cause tiny blood vessels to leak and the eyes to become itchy, red and watery. Pink eye is generally referred to an infectious bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. A bacterial conjunctivitis is characterized by the presence of mucous discharge and eye lids stuck together upon awakening. Antibiotic eye drops are needed to treat a bacterial infection. Viral conjunctivitis causes a red eye with watery discharge that is usually a self limiting condition. Your eye doctor can examine your eyes and determine if you have allergic, bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. 

What is the difference between seasonal and perennial allergies?  How would I know the difference?

Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is by far the most common type of eye allergy. Patients experience symptoms in spring, summer or fall, depending on the type of plant pollens in the air. Perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC), occurs year-round. Symptoms are the same as with SAC, but tend to be milder. They are generally caused by reactions to allergens in your home such as dust mites, mold, or pet dander, rather than pollen.

Can allergies do permanent damage to my eyes? 

Symptoms can be severe and quite intolerable but not dangerous since they do not cause any permanent damage to the eye.

What are the treatment options available for this condition? 

Antihistamine/mast cell stabilizer eye drops can be used to help control symptoms of itching. Corticosteroid drops can help control signs of redness and swelling. Cool compresses can help relieve inflammation. If systemic allergies are present see your family doctor to treat with medication such as oral anti-histamines or nasal sprays. 

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