13 April 2016
Allergies can affect our eyes at any point during our lives. Some people grow up allergy free and then suddenly develop allergies later in life, whilst others may suffer from annoying, itchy, watery eyes on a daily basis.
Last week was World Allergy Week 2016 and next week is Allergy UK’s Allergy Awareness Week 2016, two calendar weeks organised to raise awareness of allergies and their increasing prevalence.
In this blog we will explore how allergies can affect your eyes and provide advice about how you can help prevent and alleviate some of the symptoms caused by common allergies.
What causes an allergy?
An allergy is your body’s immune system’s response to substances that it identifies as being a ‘threat’, usually the substance in question is in fact something harmless like pollen or dust.
Pollen and dust mites are some of the commonest substances that can set off allergies, but allergies can be caused by a whole host of weird and wonderful substances including pets, mould, metals, food types and cosmetics.
Symptoms of an allergy
Some of the commonest eye irritations and symptoms that patients describe to their optometrist are caused by allergies and the body’s response to allergens.
The symptoms caused by the body’s immune response during an allergic reaction can include a number of eye problems including:
• Watery eyes
• Burning or Itchy eyes
• Red eyes
• Dry eyes
• Swollen eyes
• Eye discharge
The eyes are far from the only area affected though, symptoms elsewhere in the body can include:
• Skin irritation
If you’re suffering from dry itchy eyes or watery eyes then the first thing you should do is remove your contact lenses if you wear them and pop your backup glasses on instead (make sure you wash your hands thoroughly first).
Symptoms of eye allergies can be the same as, or similar to, those of other eye conditions so it’s important to book an appointment with your optometrist if you are concerned about your eyes, especially if you’ve never experienced the symptoms before. Your optometrist will be able to examine your eyes to find out whether your symptoms are being caused by an allergy, allergic conjunctivitis, or something else.
Your optometrist will provide advice and guidance, or even refer you to your doctor if needed.
Although it isn’t possible to cure an allergy, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of allergens that you are exposed to in order to ease your symptoms. Dependent on what it is that you are allergic to, taking one or more of the following precautions may help to alleviate symptoms.
• Showering before bed to remove allergens
• Anti-allergy covers for your pillows and bedding
• Washing hands after touching animals
• Wearing glasses or sunglasses when outdoors
• Using air conditioning instead of opening windows during high pollen season
• Hoover and mop your floors at home (don’t sweep)
• Try not to touch your eyes without washing your hands first
In most cases, symptoms like red itchy eyes, which can be caused by eye allergies, can be eased using antihistamines and allergy eye drops, but it’s important to see your optometrist for an eye test before you start using either.
Your optometrist will be able to recommend the most suitable medication or refer you to your doctor if they think a prescribed medication may be the best course of action.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of eye allergies book a FREE* sight test at your local Tesco Optician online here.
*Terms & conditions apply. Excludes NHS customers. Subject to availability.