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Understanding Allergic Conjunctivitis

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What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

Most people suffer from allergic conjunctivitis when their eyes are exposed to foreign substances such as pollen or mold spores, their eyes become itchy, red and watery. These are the most common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis.

The outer layer of your eyeballs and the inside of your eyelids have a membrane called conjunctiva which is susceptible to inflammation caused by allergens, especially during the hay fever season. This condition is quite common as it is your body’s natural reaction to foreign substances that may be potentially harmful.

What are the Types of Allergic Conjunctivitis?

There are basically two types of allergic conjunctivitis;

  • Acute allergic conjunctivitis- this is the more common of the two and is generally seasonal. Unique symptoms found in acute allergic conjunctivitis are runny nose, itchy eyes and/or swollen eyelids.
  • Chronic allergic conjunctivitis- this condition might be less common but occurs all year round and is triggered by things such as dust, food or animal dander. Symptoms of chronic allergic conjunctivitis are itchy eyes and burning while some people experience light sensitivity.

What are the Common Causes of Allergic Conjunctivitis?

Your body will naturally react to foreign and potentially harmful objects. The body releases histamine which is a chemical that is used to fight off any foreign substance. This reaction is what causes allergic conjunctivitis.

Some of the most common substances that cause this reaction are;

  • Mold spores
  • Chemical scents from detergents
  • Animal dander
  • Dust
  • Pollen from trees and flowers
  • Certain medication when it comes into eye contact

People who already suffer from other types of allergies are more prone to develop allergic conjunctivitis over time. However, this condition usually affects children and young adults. If you already have allergies, consider living in a location with low pollen count so as to reduce the risk of acquiring allergic conjunctivitis.

Diagnosis of Allergic Conjunctivitis

  • The first step is to always see a doctor. By examining your eyes and looking at your allergy history, they can easily diagnose the disease. Allergic conjunctivitis are characterized by redness in the white area of the eye and bumps on the inside of the eyelid. Some of these symptoms are invisible to the naked eye, but the doctor will use specialized tools to magnify the eyes.
  • There are additional tests that the doctor may be required to carry out to determine what your body is reacting to and this could mean exposure of the skin to specific allergens.
  • A blood test may also be necessary to determine whether your body is producing the appropriate anti-bodies to protect itself from specific allergens.
  • A scraping of your conjunctiva tissue so as to evaluate your white blood cells can also be done.

How is allergic conjunctivitis treated?

Treatment usually involves a combination of preventative measures to minimize exposure to allergens and activities to ease the symptoms;

  • Cleaning the house and ensuring it is dust free
  • Using an indoor air purifier
  • Closing the windows when the pollen count is high
  • Reducing exposure to harsh chemicals, perfumes and dyes

To ease the symptoms avoid rubbing your eyes as that makes it even itchier. A cool compress applied to the eyes helps in reducing the inflammation.

Medications

In more severe cases, the doctor may prescribe the following;

  • Anti-inflammation eye drops
  • Steroid eye drops
  • Eye drops that shrink congested blood vessels
  • Oral antihistamine to reduce the histamine that is responsible for the inflammation.
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