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Seasonal Allergies Are Upon Us!

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What is an eye allergy?
Many people experience eye irritation caused by common things in the environment such as pollen, dust, or ragweed. These substances are called allergens, and they can cause symptoms such as itching and redness of the eyes, or swollen, puffy eyelids. An ocular (eye) allergy can happen suddenly or some time after you come in contact with the allergen. Your doctor may refer to your ocular allergy by its medical name, allergic conjunctivitis.
What is the difference between seasonal and perennial allergies?
Seasonal allergies are usually caused by ragweed or pollen, which comes from grasses, trees, and flowering plants. The symptoms are worse when the amount of pollen in the air (often called the pollen count) is high. This usually happens during the spring, late summer, and autumn months.
Perennial allergies occur year-round because the allergens that cause the symptoms are always present. Some common household allergens that cause perennial eye allergies include dust mites, mold, pet hair, and pet dander (tiny bits of scaly skin regularly shed by pets).
What happens when allergens affect the eyes?
When your eyes come in contact with something your body considers foreign—such as pollen, ragweed, or pet dander—special cells in your eyes go on alert. These cells, called mast cells, then release various chemical substances. This is actually a protective mechanism. However, for some people, it can cause eye allergy symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of eye allergies?
An Itching is the symptom that allergy sufferers most often complain about. However, other common reactions such as swollen, puffy eyelids, redness, a burning sensation, and watery eyes can also be bothersome. Your eyes may also feel dry or gritty. Some people find that allergies make their eyes sensitive to light.
Besides being annoying and painful, eye allergies can be inconvenient. When your eye allergies flare up, you may have a hard time concentrating or you may feel tired. Reading or driving a car may be difficult because your ability to see clearly is diminished. Many people are also concerned about the effect that ocular allergy symptoms can have on their appearance.
How can I prevent my eye allergies?
The best way to manage your eye allergies is the to control the source of the allergen. This means reducing or eliminating contact with the allergens that irritate your eyes. Here’s what you can do:
Wash your hands, face, and hair frequently to keep them free of allergens, and keep hands and fingers away from your eyes.Use air filters and make sure your home is vacuumed regularly.Avoid or reduce outdoor activities when the pollen counts are high.Close windows and doors to help keep allergens out.Eliminate sources of mold around your house.If you have itchy eyes or swollen, puffy eyelids, try to avoid touching or rubbing them as this may worsen your symptoms.
What should I do if I suspect that I have eye allergies?
Be sure to see your eye care specialist. He or she will likely prescribe a prescription eye drop for you to use to relieve the itching, redness, and lid swelling of your ocular allergies.

Written by
Dr. Wes McCann

Dr. McCann earned his two Bachelor of Science degrees (both with honours) at Western University in London, Ontario, before going on to earn his Bachelor of Vision Science, accelerated MBA, and Doctor of Optometry degrees at the Nova Southeastern University (NSU) of Optometry in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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