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Q & A on Allergies

Q&A for Allergies

 
Q: What are the common symptoms of allergies?
 
Everyone is familiar with the classic signs of allergy such as sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy watery eyes.
 
Q: How do allergies directly affect the eyes?
 
Allergic signs and symptoms result from a cascade of immune responses following exposure to an allergen. The release of histamine and the production of other inflammatory mediators result in itching, redness, watering and mucous discharge.
 
Q: What is meant by the term allergic conjunctivitis? Is that the same as “pink eye”?
 
“Pink eye” is a rather generic term given to any condition involving inflammation of the conjunctiva (the clear layer that lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the white of the eye). Viruses, bacteria, chemicals and lastly allergens can all trigger this inflammation
 
Q: What is the difference between seasonal and perennial allergies? How would I know the difference?
 
Perennial allergies typically refer to year round allergies and are usually indoor allergies due to the presence of dust mites, pet dander and molds. Seasonal allergies are “outdoor” allergies and are the result of the exposure to pollen from trees, grass and ragweed although pollution is becoming an issue 
more and more.
 
Q: Can allergies do permanent damage to my eyes?
 
Only in the most severe of untreated cases is there a chance of permanent threat to vision. Cases where there are severe dry eyes or physical changes in the lids resulting in the eyelashes scratching the ocular surface repeatedly could it potentially result in corneal scarring. This is an extreme example. Normally one has to deal with puffy lids, light sensitivity, itchy and weepy eyes.
 
Q: What are the treatment options available for this condition?
 
Depending on the severity of signs and symptoms, treatment options can vary. Milder symptoms might be remedied with just artificial tear use. More moderate symptoms could benefit from oral antihistamines, OTC vasoconstrictor or mast cell stabilizing drops. There are some excellent new products specifically formulated to relieve ocular symptoms that can be prescribed by your eye doctor. Topical steroid drops of varying potency can be prescribed depending on severity. Some steroid drops have potential unwanted side effects so monitoring at follow-up visits is essential.