Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic irritation of the conjunctiva, the thin clear membrane covering the white part of the eyes, which occurs when allergy-causing substances come into contact with your eye tissue.

WHAT CAUSES IT?

Allergic conjunctivitis can occur as an acute response to a particular allergen, or as a chronic seasonal response most commonly seen in sufferers of “hayfever”. When your eyes are exposed to anything to which you are allergic, immune Mast cells are stimulated, histamine is released and the blood vessels in the conjunctiva become swollen and red. You will also have lots of itching and tearing. Allergies tend to run in families, although there is no obvious mode of genetic inheritance that has been identified.

Symptoms will include:

  • Red eyes
  • Intense itching of the eyes
  • Puffy eyelids, especially in the mornings
  • Watery eyes
  • Stringy mucous discharge

HOW DO WE ASSESS IT?

Your Envision Optical optometrist will use our slit lamp biomicroscope to carefully examine the eye surface, look under your eyelids for focal allergic swollen bumps called papillae, and check the tear film. Based on clinical signs and your symptoms a diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis is made.

TREATMENT

There is no cure for allergies short of living in a bubble and completely avoiding any substance known to cause you an allergic reaction. This may be particular foods, flowers, animal hair or cosmetics. For most types of allergy it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the causative factors altogether. So the result is to minimize your exposure and manage the symptoms as best possible. Simple relief can be had from applying cold packs to the eyes and using tear drops to flush out and wash the eyes. This will dilute the allergen particles in the tear film and provide some relief. For more significant allergic reactions, Envision optometrists will recommend either anti-histamine eye drops or a combination drop like Zaditen; which has both an anti-histamine and a mast cell stabilizer preventative in it. These can be used for a few months if necessary. For severe reactions an anti-inflammatory steroid drop may be prescribed for short term use.

A hot tip: Try very hard not to rub your eyes! This will further inflame and exacerbate the swelling.