Dr. Knapp Answers Patient Questions about Eye Allergies
Q: What are the common symptoms of allergies?
Dr. Knapp: By far the most common symptoms that allergy sufferers speak of are itching and/or burning eyes. In addition a patient may notice redness or swelling of the conjunctiva, the white of the eye. Swelling of the eyelids is also sometimes present.
Q: What is meant by the term allergic conjunctivitis? Is that the same as “pink eye”?
Dr. Knapp: Allergic conjunctivitis is a condition where a substance comes in contact with the eyes and causes an allergic reaction in the white of the eye, called the conjunctiva or in the eye lids. It is not the same as “pink eye” though the eye can be red in both conditions. Pink eye is an infection of the conjunctiva caused by coming in contact with a bacteria or a virus.
Q: What is the difference between seasonal and perennial allergies? How would I know the difference?
Dr. Knapp: Perennial allergies are allergies that last year round. They are most often caused by animal dander, dust, or other substances that a person comes in contact with year round. Seasonal allegies are only present during certain times of the years, generally over a period of time associated with one or more of the four seasons. Seasonal allergies are often caused by particular plants or substances that are only present during particular times of the year.
Q: Can allergies do permanent damage to my eyes?
Dr. Knapp: Generally no but in a more severe cases allergies can lead to a corneal ulcer which can result in vision loss, including blindness if not treated.
Q: What are the treatment options available for this condition?
Dr. Knapp: In mild allergies cold compresses several times a day, along with OTC artificial tears, to help flush the allergens out of the eyes can be effective. In a worse case a combination of antihistamine and mast cell stabilizers can be prescribed in eye drop form to treat the allergic condition. In more severe allergic conjunctivitis corticosteroids may be necessary. These are prescribed in drop form. Oral allergy medicines such as Allegra or Claratin can be used to supplement the drops in relieving the allergic symptoms.