Seasonal allergies are inherently troublesome, but they become totally unbearable if you are a contact lens user. Doctors say that seasonal allergies cause a lot of itching in the eyes and make them watery. Hence, those who wear a plastic on the cornea face utmost difficulty. In addition to it, they make the condition worse by rubbing. It makes you feel better initially, but it releases a substance called Histamine that is released to fight against bacterial or viral infection by our body. Hence, there is more inflammation and irritation after rubbing. What should be done to get relief from irritating eye allergies?
What causes eye allergies?
According to the experts, four primary reasons are there behind eye allergies- pet dander, mold, dust, and pollens. There are cases where certain eye drops, cosmetics or artificial tears prescribed for the treatment of dry eyes can also cause allergies. They contain preservatives that trigger inflammation, redness and itching in the eyes. Insect bites or bee sting can also cause the symptoms. In a few cases, people develop allergic symptoms after consuming certain foods. Grass, pungent smells, perfumes, or peanuts can be other sources of allergens.
Why does your body become allergic to contacts?
It is a common experience that people wear contact lenses for ten or fifteen years without any trouble, but suddenly become allergic to it. It doesn’t happen overnight actually. The process starts gradually and we tend to ignore the symptoms. Minor itching, redness and inflammation get treated with over the counter drugs. However, the frequency and potency of allergens increase gradually and the body reaches a threshold where contact lenses become an irritant factor.
As a reflex action, body produces a chemical known as histamine that causes inflammation and subsequently blood vessels growth in the eyelids. In medical terminology, it is called GPC (Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis). As per statistics around five to seven percent contact lens users get affected with it. GPC not only causes swollen eyelids, but it causes extreme irritation, itchiness, and blurred vision. Thick mucus or white discharge is also quite common.
What do experts prescribe?
Experts prescribe the treatment based on the symptoms and they try to cover every possible reason for an allergic reaction:
- Anti Histamine drugs: Histamine is a substance produced by our body as the natural reaction to allergens. However, it also causes running nose, watery eyes, itching, and redness. Anti- histamine drugs stop the release of histamine and control the symptoms. A few drugs prevent the release of histamine and other mediators that cause allergy. They are called Mast cell stabilizers. Doctors prescribe combination drugs of Anti Histamine and Mast cell stabilizers for a greater benefit.
- Decongestants: Decongestants work in two ways. Firstly, they reduce the size of blood vessels on the sclera (the white portion) of the eyes so that redness can be reduced. Secondly, they shrink the nasal passage to improve breathing.
- Steroids: They are used in acute symptoms only. Since there are potential side-effects of these drugs, doctors use them only for a short duration to bring the situation under control.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: These drugs reduce symptoms like swelling and irritation.
A few simple and effective tips
- Avoid the basic cause: If you know the fundamental reason of allergy, then avoid it as much as possible. For example, a person who is extremely allergic to pollens should stay in-house during pollen season. Always use high-quality air-conditioners that filter the air. Similarly, a furnace filter should be installed to trap allergens. It is important that the furnace filters and air-conditioners are regularly serviced. If it is not possible to stay indoors, then wear wraparound glasses. They not only protect the eyes from harmful UV rays, but give excellent coverage against pollens and other airborne irritants. Make it a practice to wear them regularly so that you avoid allergies. Keep the windows closed while driving.
- Maintain the cleanliness: Yes, it is another important aspect. If you stay in the house to avoid airborne irritants, but your home is a shelter of molds and dust mites, then you are equally at risk of getting infected. Clean the house thoroughly and use disinfectant if needed. Antifungal paints and chemical treatment help in getting rid of stubborn fungi. The areas where you can’t reach easily are the breeding grounds for allergic irritants. Pillows and mattresses are sources of dust mites. Wash them regularly if they are washable ones; else replace them after every two years. There are anti-allergic covers available in the market that doesn’t allow the mites to come out. Use a dehumidifier if the house is damp and moist.
- Prescription medicines: When allergy becomes extremely irritating and out of control, it is the time to consult a registered doctor. Prescribed medication works well because it is based on diagnosis. An expert ophthalmologist or optometrist looks at the case and suggests suitable medicine. You may be asked to discontinue the use of contacts if doctor feels so. Disposable contact lenses can be a good alternative. Since you discard the after a single use, there is hardly any chance of developing allergens on the lenses. Mild anti-allergy drops are prescribed to offer relief from symptoms. In very bad allergic cases, the doctor may prescribe high-power fast-acting drops that reduce inflammation and irritation immediately. However, they may contain steroids and not recommended for long-term use.
- Go for corrective surgery like LASIK: When allergic infection makes it impossible to use contact lenses, doctors suggest permanent vision correction by advanced surgical procedures like LASIK. Though it doesn’t help in reducing the allergic symptoms, there is a great relief by avoiding the use of contact lenses that make the situation further difficult.
- Artificial tears: Some experts recommend the use of artificial tears so that airborne allergens get washed out from the eyes. There are various brands available in the market to select from.
If you have the history of allergy in the family or your eyes become red and itchy frequently during pollen season, then you need to be cautious. If your eyes become watery after using certain lotions or cosmetics, then it is a warning sign. One should look an expert immediately to avoid future problems.