Unlike viral conjunctivitis (or pink eye) that is caused by a virus, allergic conjunctivitis occurs when the eye is exposed to something that the patient is allergic to. The most common causes of allergic conjunctivitis include pollen from grasses, rag wood, and trees. Dust and mold are other common triggers of allergic conjunctivitis. Severity of allergies can vary by conditions such as the quality of the air and the changes in the seasons.
When the eye is exposed to allergens, the body reacts by releasing histamine. The histamine affects the blood vessels in the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the inner eyelid and the white of the eye) and may cause any of the following symptoms:
- Red eyes
- An itchy or burning sensation
- Watery eyes
- Swollen, puffy eyelids
- Stringy, goopy discharge from the eyes
Any combination of these symptoms may be experienced and they can vary in severity as well. For his patients in Carlsbad, eye exams can be performed so Dr. Chen can look for these symptoms as well as the presence of small, raised bumps on the inner eyelid (another sign of allergic conjunctivitis).
Ideally, allergic conjunctivitis can be prevented by avoiding contact with known allergens, but this is all but impossible since pollen and dust are present in the air all around us. When mild symptoms are experienced, patients may find relief from over-the-counter treatments such as lubricating eye drops and oral antihistamines. Cold compresses applied to the eyes may also help alleviate mild swelling, itchiness, or discomfort. If these remedies are not effective or if more severe symptoms are experienced, Dr. Chen can offer his patients prescription treatment for allergic conjunctivitis. Dr. Chen may prescribe any of the following types of medication:
- Antihistamine eye drops
- Anti-inflammatory eye drops
- Mild steroid eye drops
- Eye drops to prevent the white blood cells from releasing histamine
These medications each have their own benefits and uses. Dr. Chen will determine the most appropriate treatment for each patient based on severity of symptoms. While these treatments will alleviate the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, the condition is one that is likely to recur if the patient continues to be exposed to the trigger allergens.
Schedule an Appointment
If you have experienced red, swollen eyes and suspect you may be suffering from allergic conjunctivitis, schedule an appointment with Dr. Paul H. Chen. Dr. Chen can diagnose this condition and prescribe medication to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis.