Healthy Living

What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis or pink eye is an infection that is easily transmitted, but it is also easily cured. Almost every person gets conjunctivitis at least once in their lifetime. There are many different subtypes of this infection, but for now we'll focus on the allergic contraction of conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is an eye infection that is usually caused by an allergic reaction. This reaction is usually to substances like mold spores or pollen. The conjunctiva is susceptible to irritation from many different types of allergens, and this effect is especially common during the hay fever season, as well as other seasons that irritants are found in the air.

Allergic conjunctivitis has two main sub-types:

  • Acute allergic conjunctivitis – short-term condition that is common during allergy season. The symptoms usually are swollen eyelids, itchiness, burning sensation in the eyes and a watery nose.
  • Chronic allergic conjunctivitis – this type of conjunctivitis is less common and it can occur throughout the whole year. It is usually a response to allergens like animals, dust, food and so on. The symptoms include, but are not limited to itchiness, burning sensation, and light sensitivity.

No matter the sub-type of allergic conjunctivitis, there are usually several substances that cause the allergic reaction. These causes include, but are not limited to:

  • Dust (usually household dust)
  • Pollen (trees, flowers, grass)
  • Mold spores
  • Animals and insects
  • Chemical scents (perfumes, detergents and so on)
  • Medications
  • Substances dropped into the eyes
  • Food

People that have some kind of allergies are more likely to develop this type of conjunctivitis. Allergies affect more than 40% of children and more than 30% of adults, and usually run in families. Even though allergies affect people of all different ages, they are more common in children. People that are allergic to something else are more likely to get this type of conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis is usually diagnosed by a careful and complete clinical examination. The presence of an allergic element will cause the generation of an allergic reaction. Hence, that particular antigen must be carefully identified and strictly avoided by the patient. Managing allergic conjunctivitis will use different parameters according to the specific type of allergen. Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis can include different types of drugs such as corticosteroids, mast cell stabilizers, anti-inflammatory drugs and topical anti-histamines.

The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include:

  • Puffy eyes
  • Red or pink eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Burning sensation
  • Discomfort
  • Tearing

To determine the conjunctivitis it is the best if you visit a specialist so you can be sure that you have this infection and that you have this type. First, you will have to do an allergy test and then answer some of the doctor’s questions. The testing for allergic conjunctivitis is fast and painless.

Seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis

As the mucosal surface of the eye is very similar to the surface of the mucosa in the nose, usually similar allergic elements are the cause of allergic conjunctivitis. Common factors such as weeds, grass, molds, and pollen can cause itching in the eye, redness and burning sensation. The timing of the manifestations is what differentiates between seasonal and perennial conjunctivitis.

Patients who suffer from the seasonal type of conjunctivitis usually display the symptoms for a specific time period, such as spring when pollen is very common. During summer, grass pollen is more prevalent in the air, and in the fall the predominant element is weed pollen. Usually the patient is free from symptoms during the winter time because the colder temperatures reduce the incidence of airborne allergens from spreading.

On the other hand, patients with perennial conjunctivitis display symptoms that are seen all through the year. Some of the other common allergens found at home or at the workplace such as cockroach dust, tobacco smoke, molds, pet dander and dust mites are known to cause perennial acute conjunctivitis.

There are many methods for treating allergic conjunctivitis. The first thing you need to do is a combination of activities and strategies to ease the symptoms. Make sure that you minimize your exposure to the substances you are allergic to. If you are allergic to pollen, you should keep the windows closed when the pollen count is high. You should always keep your home and room dust-free. The next step is avoiding chemicals, perfumes, and dyes. The best way to ease the symptoms is to apply a cool compress to your eyes and to avoid rubbing your eyes. This will also reduce the itching and the inflammation.

Allergic conjunctivitis is caused quite often in areas which contain lots of seasonal allergens and pollen. These areas include Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

If the infection doesn’t clear after a while, the doctor may prescribe medications and steroid eye drops. The infection should clear on its own, but it is highly likely that it will reappear if you come in contact with the things you are allergic to.

The doctor will find it a challenge to differentiate between infective and allergic conjunctivitis at first glance. This usually happens during the hay fever season when eyes turn watery and red. Allergic conjunctivitis mostly is found in both eyes. It is probably not allergic conjunctivitis if only one eye has been affected. There are other causes of one or both eyes turning red, and thus can easily be mistaken as conjunctivitis. The inflammation of the inside of the eye, ulcers in the eye and shingles are some conditions that can confuse the doctor.

If you are not sure of why you are displaying certain symptoms then it would be prudent to make a doctor’s appointment. If you show any of these signs then be sure to contact your doctor immediately:

  • Change in the type of symptoms such as when your eyes hurt in the light.
  • There is pain in the eyes, which can be described as mildly sore
  • If the skin surface near your eyes develops any kind of blisters or spots.
  • You develop diminished vision in one or both eyes.
  • There is significant redness in the eye specifically on one side.