If your eyes itch and are red, tearing or burning, you may have eye allergies (Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis SAC or Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis PAC), a condition that affects millions. Many people will treat their nasal allergy symptoms but ignore their itchy, red, watery eyes.
Eye allergies develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people. An allergic reaction can occur when that “something” (called an allergen) comes in contact with antibodies attached to the mast cells in your eyes; the cells respond by releasing histamine and other substances or chemicals that cause tiny blood vessels to leak and the eyes to become itchy, red and watery.
Eye allergies can range from mildly annoying redness, to inflammation severe enough to impair vision. If symptoms persist, or over-the-counter remedies do not bring relief, it’s important that you see an eye specialist, who will review your medical history and symptoms, and conduct the appropriate tests.
Eye Allergy Symptoms
The primary types of eye allergy are seasonal or perennial allergic conjunctivitis – symptoms in spring, summer or fall, depending on the type of plant pollens in the air. Typical symptoms include:
Itching, redness, burning, clear watery discharge.
People with SAC may have chronic dark circles (known as allergic shiners) under their eyes. The eyelids may be puffy, and bright lights may be bothersome. SAC symptoms often accompany the runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion associated with hay fever and other seasonal allergies. The itching may be so bothersome that patients rub their eyes frequently, making symptoms worse and potentially causing infection.
Perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC), as its name implies, occurs year-round. Symptoms are the same as with SAC, but tend to be milder. They are caused by reactions to dust mites, mould, pet dander or other household allergens, rather than pollen.
The first approach in managing seasonal or perennial forms of eye allergy should be to avoid the allergens that trigger your symptoms.
Please contact us for any assistance.