Outlook Eyecare: Seasonal allergies and the eye

Source: GMN News Health
For most people, spring brings with it short-sleeved shirts, outdoor activities, no more cold weather, and fun days in the sun. However, for some it means another dreaded season plagued with allergies.
Seasonal allergies are brought on from an immune response in certain individuals with sensitivity to certain allergens such as pollen. As the pollens are inhaled, allergy sufferers will experience rhinitis or inflammation of their nasal passages. Symptoms will include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and itching.
If the pollens come in contact with the eyes or ocular surface it can results in allergic conjunctivitis otherwise know as allergic pink eye.Around 50 percent of allergy sufferers will experience ocular symptoms. Symptoms generally include red eyes, itching, burning and tearing. Symptoms can range from mild to very severe.
The best treatment for allergies is avoidance of the offending allergen, although this is often very difficult in regards to seasonal allergies. Some patients will get relief of their eye symptoms with oral allergy medicines such as Claritin. However a large portion of patients will require topical allergy and anti-inflammatory drops. These drops will concentrate the anti-allergy effect right in the eyes.
In mild cases of eye allergies, I generally prescribe drops such as Pazeo and Lastacaft, which helps inhibit the action of histamine and even prevent certain cells from releasing it.
I also recommend using artificial tears. They will help to dilute and wash away any pollens or allergens from the ocular surface. Patients can even refrigerate the tears, which give a soothing sensation when they use them.

I would urge anyone suffering from allergies to seek medical treatment. Too often, I find patients taking over-the-counter drops as they feel these are the only therapies available.

In more moderate cases of allergic conjunctivitis, especially when the pollen counts are high, I will add a steroid drop to help suppress the immune response. This generally produces very quick relief of symptoms.
I also find that I have to directly ask my patients if they experience eye allergies. Many don’t report their ocular allergy issues because they feel it’s just the norm to endure the bad months when pollens are high and their symptoms are severe. Untreated, seasonal allergies can leave a patient miserable, however with proper medicines patients can enjoy the spring and summer months as they should be.

By Michael Trottini O.D. of Outlook Eyecare, 5 Centre Drive 1B, Monroe Township. For more information, call 609-409- 2777.

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