Watery itchy eyes

Watery, red and itchy eyes – common symptoms of allergy!

Do you have red itchy eyes? Are your eyes watery and swollen? If so, it is likely that you are suffering from allergic conjunctivitis, an allergic disease affecting your eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis is especially common among people with asthma or with an allergic condition called rhinitis that affects the mucous membranes of the nose causing sneezing, nasal congestion and nose run.

As a rule, allergic conjunctivitis appears when an allergen circulating the air sticks to the mucous membranes of the eyes. When this happens a reaction of the body is triggered, causing different substances, like histamine, to be released, which provokes the allergic symptoms. If you have hay fever your problems are seasonal, but if you are allergic to pets or dust mites you may have symptoms like, itchy, red and watery eyes all year round. Some are even experiencing skin irritations on the insides of their eyelids. Dry eyes and air pollution can make the symptoms worse. Allergic conjunctivitis is usually transitory and easily treated, but if your problems do not pass you should ask to be remitted to an eye specialist, who can perform a thorough examination, and if needed, prescribe some more effective medicines. You should not have to put up with symptoms affecting your eyes.

Other allergies of the eyes

In rare cases, allergies affecting the eyes can become severe and chronic. Vernal conjunctivitis is one example of severe allergic conjunctivitis mostly affecting young boys. Those affected experience constant itch and sensitivity to light of the eyes, and this disease cannot be treated with ordinary allergy medicines. Fortunately the vernal conjunctivitis normally disappears with age.

Atopic keratoconjunctivitis is another type of eye allergy, which may lead to severe problems. It is an inflammatory disease that affects people with atopic eczema, causing eczema on the eyelids, chronic inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis) and a sore cornea. This disease often first appears in adolescence.

Severe eye allergy that is not treated properly can lead to permanent vision impairment, so it is important that a doctor investigates the symptoms if they do not disappear.

How do you treat eye allergies?

If you are allergic, the best way to avoid irritation of the eyes is to avoid the cause of your intolerance, and avoid rubbing your eyes. It's a good idea to avoid smoky spaces, swimming pool chemicals like chlorine, make-up and drafts. If that is not possible there are several allergy treatments available:

  • Saline solution is used to wash the eyes and thereby ease the symptoms
  • Cold compresses and tear replacement eye drops help to wash away the allergen from the surface of the eye and may ease mild problems
  • Antihistamine tablets usually have an effect on both itchy eyes and hay fever. The pills will help within an hour. Nasal spray containing antihistamine also has an effect on eye symptoms and usually helps within 15-30 minutes
  • Eye drops containing antihistamines are a good option if the problems are coming from the eyes. They have a quick soothing effect and can be used regularly. Sometimes the eye drops need to be taken during a longer period for the allergy to be controlled
  • Eye drops containing sodium cromoglicate may slow down the allergic reaction by stopping mast cells in the mucous membrane to release histamine. However, chromones do not show an immediate effect and has to be taken a few days before you are expecting problems from, for example, pollen. The eye drops work on mild problems
  • Corticosteroids come as nasal spray or as tablets. Cortisone softens the inflammation and thereby alleviates allergy symptoms. Nasal spray containing only cortisone is usually not very effective when it comes to treating eye allergy symptoms. Nasal spray containing both antihistamine and corticosteroid is better in such cases, as it has a good effect on symptoms from the eyes as well as the nose
  • Vaccine therapy (immunotherapy) is a process of slowly letting the body get used to the substance it is not tolerating. This implies getting injections with small doses of the allergen during several years. Grass pollen vaccine also exists as tablets. Immunotherapy to treat allergy is usually only an option if other medication has not been effective 




UK/GEN/15/0057d                             Date of preparation: December 2015 

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