Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic Conjunctivitis
Photo Credit: ResearchGate

What is allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammation that occurs in your eyes when irritants gain access into it. The part of the eyes that is inflamed is called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a membrane that covers your eyeballs and eyelids. A membrane is a covering that partitions one part from another. The conjunctiva can easily be irritated by substances particularly during the season of hay fever.

These irritants are called allergens. Examples are pollen, dust, mold spores etc. When you have allergic conjunctivitis, your eyes will become watery, itchy and red. That is a way of your conjunctiva reacting to the allergens it has been exposed to.

What are the types of allergic conjunctivitis?

Acute and chronic allergic conjunctivitis!

Acute allergic conjunctivitis

It is common for people to get allergic conjunctivitis during an allergy season.

Acute allergic conjunctivitis is short-term reaction of your conjunctiva to allergens. This is characterized by a sudden swelling of your eyelids and it is characterized by itchy and burning sensations in the eyes.

Chronic allergic conjunctivitis

It is not as common as acute allergic conjunctivitis.

Chronic allergic conjunctivitis can last for a year. It is triggered by dust, food, and animal dander. Its symptoms are light sensitivity, itchy, and burning eyes. They are recurrent in nature.

What causes allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is developed when your immune system tries to fight what it perceives as a threat to your body. But the body part that gets the brunt of the fight is the conjunctiva hence the term, conjunctivitis. The immune system has a powerful chemical it uses to defend itself. It’s called histamine. Anything that therefore triggers the release of histamine in most cases is an allergen.

The following are common allergens that can induce histamine release by the immune system:

  • animal dander
  • mold spores
  • household dust
  • pollens from grass and trees
  • scents from detergents or perfumes
  • certain eye drops
  • contact lens solution

Who is at risk for allergic conjunctivitis?

Some people rarely have allergies. But for some other persons, they are readily susceptible to them. Allergic conjunctivitis is therefore common to people that easily react to substances.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that 40% of children and 30% of adults in America are often affected with allergies. It is also common for allergies to run in the family.

Allergies have no age barrier but it’s often common amongst the children and adolescents.

If you are prone to allergies, staying in locations with very high pollen grains can increase your probability of having allergic conjunctivitis.

What are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis?

Eyes that are puffy, itchy, red and watery are typical of this disorder. You might also feel a burning sensation in the affected eye.

How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?

Your eyes will be keenly examined by your doctor. Your history will also be taken and evaluated. Your doctor will look for red coloration in the white part of your eyeball. Small bumps will also be examined right in your eyelids.

More tests can be carried out to ascertain the extent of the inflammation. They include:

  • An allergy skin test – your skin will be exposed to certain allergens after which their reactions (usually eye redness and swelling) on you will be examined.
  • A blood test – specific proteins called antibodies, will be assessed in your blood. The antibodies will be present in high concentration in the blood in the presence of an allergen.
  • Conjunctival tissue scraping – tissue from your conjunctiva will be extracted and analyzed for the presence of a special type of white blood cells called eosinophil. Allergens activate eosinophils.

How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?

Many treatment approaches are available for the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis:

Home care

Home care entails the employing of strategic activities aimed at easing your symptoms and minimizing your contact with allergens. These are:

  • Closing your windows when you suspect that pollen count is really high.
  • Keeping your home free of dust as much as you can.
  • Using indoor air purifiers
  • Avoiding contact with harsh perfumes, harsh chemicals, and dyes

Symptoms can be eased by limiting how much you rub your eyes. Also, placing some ice packs over your closed eyelids can drastically reduce itchiness and inflammation.

Medications

When home care has failed to ease symptoms of this disorder especially in severe cases, you might have to engage other treatment options. These include:

  • over-the-counter antihistamine – suitable for minimizing or completely preventing histamine release
  • anti-inflammatory eye drops
  • eye drops – they can shrink blood vessels that have become congested
  • steroid eye drops

What is the long-term outlook?

You can experience immense relief with proper care. But when you are exposed to the allergens that make you susceptible to this disorder, you will develop it again.

How do I prevent allergic conjunctivitis?

By a complete avoidance of the factors that pre-disposes to allergic conjunctivitis, you can stop yourself from having it. But is it really possible to completely avoid coming in contact once in a while with these allergens? That is why it is sometimes very difficult to completely prevent. You can minimize the frequency at which you can develop allergic conjunctivitis if you minimize your exposure to the allergens. Minimize your exposure to dust, air purifiers, scented soaps and, detergents.