Sunday, January 29, 2012

Allergies of the Eyes

Allergies of the eyes, while not a severe problem, can cause significant disturbances in our daily lives. To know more about eye allergies, and how to treat them, read on....

The eyes are considered to be the most delicate organs in the body. They are protected by defense mechanisms such as eyelids, eyelashes, and the conjunctiva or the covering of the eyeball. In spite of all these protective measures, they are prone to attacks of some airborne allergens. Eye allergies are considered to be a major part of eye problems, affecting approximately more than 40 million Americans.

Like all types of allergies, eye allergies are excessive reactions of the immune system to foreign materials, which may otherwise not cause any harm. For people who do not suffer from any allergies, the response of the immune system following an exposure to an allergen is under control, and hence it produces no or few symptoms. In the case of individuals suffering from allergies, the reaction of the immune system induces a release of inappropriate, high-quantity chemical mediators, the most common being histamine, responsible for allergic symptoms. A reaction that has an adverse effect on the conjunctiva is usually known as allergic conjunctivitis.

Eye allergies have numerous symptoms such as watery, itchy, red, sore, and tumefied eyes, burning sensation in the eyes, and blurred vision. 'Itchy eyes' is a primary symptom of most eye allergies, if the eyes are not itching, the chances of being affected by an allergen is considerably less. Generally, both eyes are affected, although at times one eye may not hurt as much as the other. The conjunctiva which covers and protects the eyeball, is similar to the skin inside our inner nose. If any one of the conjunctiva is exposed to allergens, the other is also likely to be affected. There are many allergens that induce allergic reactions like pollen, grass, weeds, dust, pets hair or skin, or birds feathers.

There are numerous subtypes of eye allergies, however, the most common ones are Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAC) and Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis (PAC). These are triggered by the reaction of the immune system to an allergen. If a person is allergic to a particular substance, and comes in contact with it, allergic symptoms like itching and sneezing are experienced. Individuals suffering from SAC experience problems for a very short period of time. Problems are seasonal and one can experience symptoms in 'spring' by tree pollen, in 'summertime' by grass, or in 'fall' by weeds. However, no allergic symptoms may be experienced during the winter season. For individuals suffering from PAC, the symptoms occur throughout the year. PAC patients are more likely to be affected by indoor allergens as compared to outdoor allergens such as dust, cockroaches, and pet dander.

Eye allergies can be easily avoided and treated. One can avoid allergies by simply not getting in contact with known allergic substances, which cause allergic symptoms to reduce or disappear. Dusty places, where there is a possibility of allergens being present, should be avoided. Use of pillows, beddings, draperies, and linens should be reduced. Carpets that contain dust mites should be handled only after taking precautionary measures. Some individuals are allergic to animal hair or skin. Such people should take adequate care around pets and other animals. Cold compresses can be applied to the eyes to reduce allergic reactions, or use of lubricating eye drops to get rid of allergens present in the eyes can also be used. When outdoors, sunglasses should be worn to prevent dust from getting into the eyes. If uncertain about the allergen, prescription eye drops should be used, which are effective and free from any side effects.

Symptoms of eye allergy may make everyday activities miserable and in some cases, impossible. However, a little care taken will go a long way in helping to prevent these irritations that disrupt normal life.


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