What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

Are you experiencing red, itchy, and watery eyes? If so, you may be suffering from allergic conjunctivitis. This common form of allergies occurs when the eyes are exposed to a certain substance, or allergen, that triggers an immune reaction. 

Allergic conjunctivitis generally isn’t serious, but it can be very uncomfortable. Let’s learn more about this condition, how it’s treated, and what can be done to prevent it. 

Defining Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis happens when the eyes come into contact with a substance that the immune system perceives as a threat. In response to the perceived threat, the immune system releases histamine and other substances through a type of white blood cells called mast cells. This process causes the blood vessels in the eyes to dilate, which aggravates nerve endings and triggers increased tear secretion, leading to various symptoms, including:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Intense itchiness
  • Soreness or burning
  • Inflamed eyelids
  • A sensation of a foreign body in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision

Causes of Allergic Conjunctivitis

There are several allergens that can trigger allergic conjunctivitis, including:

  • Cosmetics
  • Dust 
  • Pollen from grasses and trees
  • Pet dander
  • Mold spore
  • Perfumes, household detergents, and other chemical scents
  • Eye drops and contacts solutions

One type of allergic conjunctivitis, called giant papillary conjunctivitis, commonly develops from wearing contact lenses. Poor cleaning of contact lenses and contact lens cases can contribute to this form of allergic conjunctivitis. 

Treating Allergic Conjunctivitis

Treating allergic conjunctivitis at home involves limiting exposure to known allergens. Avoid perfumes, dyes, harsh chemicals, and cosmetics with potentially irritating ingredients. When pollen counts are high, close the windows in your home. Additionally, keep your home free of dust to prevent any allergy symptoms.

To ease the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, you may need to see an allergist for treatment. You could be given prescription eye drops or an oral antihistamine to inflammation and irritation from allergic conjunctivitis.