Allergic conjunctivitis is a common allergic problem involving the conjunctiva of the eyes. More than 25% of the population suffers from common nose related allergy symptoms. At least half of these allergy sufferers have some symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. On occasion allergic conjunctivitis can occur alone without nasal or sinus symptoms. It is most frequently associated with symptoms of itchy watery eyes often occurring during the allergy seasons. Repeatedly rubbing the eyes perpetuates the itchy feeling and creates a repetitive cycle of infection.
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is the most common allergic disease involving the eye. This condition affects you seasonally based upon changing concentrations of seasonal pollen. Symptoms can be severe and quite intolerable but not dangerous since they do not cause any permanent damage to the eye. The disease usually is self limiting with avoidance of the allergen. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis occurs more frequently than perennial allergic conjunctivitis. Symptoms typically occur in spring and fall depending on your specific sensitivities and the time and extent of pollination.
Perennial allergic conjunctivitis typically results from exposure to dust mites, animal dander and/or mold or other allergens that are present year round in home or work environments. Because of constant exposure to these allergens, symptoms are year round and similar to the symptoms of the seasonal condition. However they may wax and wane depending on indoor allergen concentrations.
If you suffer from allergic conjunctivitis, you may develop dark discoloration or circles below your eyes often called “allergic shiners.” You may complain of fullness in your eyes or perhaps a burning sensation. The eyes often tear and may become swollen or even swell shut in severe cases. Your eyes may be red or not even look that bad even though the itching is quite severe. You may complain of intolerance to bright lights (photophobia) or occasionally have blurred vision. When symptoms are severe, the need to rub your eyes may become overwhelming because of the intense itching.
Diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis is based on presentation of typical allergic symptoms in the nose and eyes. Symptoms usually affect both eyes. Most of the time symptoms are clearly linked to pollen, work, or home allergen exposures. Walking into a house and suddenly experiencing itchy eyes when exposed to a pet makes the diagnosis obvious. However year round symptoms that increase and decrease without a clear cause can make the diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis quite difficult, especially if it is complicated by other concurrent medical problems such as dry eyes or other eye disease.
Because you may know what tends to affect you, you may be able to specifically identify the offending allergen(s). Allergy skin tests should support the diagnosis. These tests can also assist in designing environmental controls and in formulating an allergy serum if allergy injection therapy is necessary.
Nonallergic conditions need to be considered and ruled out before final diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis is made. Among these considerations are:
|Primary Complaints||Itching, often severe||Burning, irritation,
|Discharge||Minimal, pinkish or milky||Minimal||Profuse, whitish
|Other Findings||Nasal and/or chest symptoms||Occasional sore throat and fever||Occasional lid swelling|