The eye and allergic responses

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Allergic Eye Diseases

Allergic Eye Disease Introduction

Disorders of the eye due to allergies are common. Usually the conjunctiva is reddened and there is tearing. Other symptoms that are not related to the eye are asthma, eczema and rhinitis.

As the eye has no real natural barrier to allergens except for the eyelids and eyelashes, allergic eye diseases are almost typical. Seasonal allergic attacks that affect the eyes can affect many aspects of quality of life including the ability to sleep. Headache, fatigue and runny nose are prevalent side symptoms.

Allergic eye diseases occur in thirty to fifty percent of the population. These eye disorders are more common in highly industrialized countries where pollution is an issue.

Types of Eye Allergies

The most common allergic eye disorders are:

Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis: This comes in tandem with hay fever and is provoked by the same allergens that cause allergic rhinitis. Triggers are grass, tree and weed pollen. Ragweed pollen is the most common cause of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis in the United State.

Perennial allergic conjunctivitis: This describes an allergic eye disorder that occurs year round because the allergens that cause the condition are also present all year round. These common allergens include animal dander, mold and dust mites.

Symptoms for both seasonal allergic conjunctivitis and perennial allergic conjunctivitis include watering, redness and itching.

There are also more severe and rare types of allergic eye diseases. These include –

Atopic keratoconjunctivitis or AKC: This is a chronic, inflammation of the eyelids and conjunctiva that typically affects both eyes. It most often affects individuals who already have a disposition to asthma or eczema. The disease is most common in adults over fifty but it can also affect adolescents in their teens. If the infection spreads to the cornea it can lead to blindness. About ten percent of sufferers from AKC develop a cataract. If you get atopic dermatitis in adolescence you are more likely to develop AKC approximately a decade later. This disease is unusual as it causes the anterior part of the lens to become opaque in six months.

The symptoms of AKC are constant itching, soreness, loss of vision and dry eyes. The skin of the eye may become dry or develop a texture that resembles the dry red patches of eczema. The eyelids may also become swollen.

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis or VKC: VKC is a rare disorder that affects both eyes and occurs in youngsters who have had atopy. It occurs more often in males before puberty but after puberty it affects both sexes equally. It often crops up every spring when symptoms are proved by hot weather, sweating and exposure to dust and wind. In five percent of cases, VKC causes blindness usually with one eye more affected than the other.

Symptoms of VKC include watery eyes, itchiness, sticky eyelids and eyelids that are crusted together after sleeping. If the cornea becomes infected the sufferer may experience eyeball pain, vision loss and light sensitivity.

Giant papillary conjunctivitis or GPC: GPC is technically not an allergy but it is included here because it has symptoms that resemble allergies. Usually a contact lens or a foreign body triggers this disorder. Irritation of the eyelid occurs and causes the lid to have difficulty closing or causes the contact lenses to stick to the roof of the eyelid. The more you wear your contact lenses the more likely you are to suffer from this disorder.

Common symptoms include severe itching, increased mucus discharge, blurred vision and an inability to tolerate the insertion or wearing of contact lenses.

Allergic Eye Disease Treatment

Diagnosis of allergic eye diseases is dependent on taking the person’s medical history and the history of their eye health. Blood and skin test to determine allergic reactions may also be conducted.

Most eye care professionals will immediately recommend that you not wear your contact lenses. If there is inflammation, the application of cool compresses and eye drops can help soothe the irritation. Relocating to an area where there is less dust and less pollution can help as can regularly changing your bed linen and towels.

Medication may also be recommended in the form of topical or oral antihistamines. This can help control the symptoms of rhinitis and watery eyes.

Topical steroids are also sometimes used to treat this but only after a thorough diagnosis. However steroids are not the first plan of action medically as they have unpredictable side effects such as glaucoma, cataracts and other infections.

A severe allergic reaction can lead to corneal ulceration and cause blindness. However this kind of reaction is very rare.