Why do we get eye allergies?

An eye allergy develops due to an adverse reaction to certain substances such as pollen, animal hair and environmental pollutants. Allergic conjunctivitis is a condition that arises when the eye comes into contact with an irritant, also known as an allergen. As a result, the tissue covering the inside of the eyelids, the conjunctiva, becomes inflamed.

Normally our immune systems recognise foreign bodies as harmful invaders and therefore react by releasing antibodies to fight against infection or disease. However, the immune system can respond the same way when a part of the body makes contact with an allergen like dust, smoke, pet dander or certain types of chemicals and fragrances

An eye allergy is a concern when the following symptoms occur:

  • Itchiness in the eye
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Puffy eyes

How do I know I have allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal due to the change of weather or can arise when the eye comes into direct contact with an allergen. An eye allergy can therefore persist throughout the year.

Your doctor can diagnose allergic conjunctivitis by conducting a thorough medical exam and an eye exam. Usually, symptoms are reviewed to rule out underlying conditions. Then, a blood and skin prick test can identify the allergen causing your symptoms.

How do you treat an eye allergy?

Cold compresses can help relieve inflammation caused by an allergic reaction. Prescription anti-allergy eye drops, oral medications (antihistamines, steroids and decongestants) and allergy immunotherapy are taken to relieve the reaction.

What is the prognosis?

Regular eye allergies could suggest symptoms of discomfort year-round, which means coming into contact with the suspected allergen can trigger the reaction. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for an eye allergy; the only way to prevent it is to identify the allergen and avoid coming into contact with it. Oral medication and eye drops that have been prescribed can prevent discomfort from symptoms of inflammation.



Is an eye allergy dangerous?

An eye allergy may be one of the most frequent reasons for a visit to the ophthalmologist. Seriously persistent eye allergies can lead to severe damage to the eye and possibly threaten your eyesight. This is the reason why it needs to be checked out immediately.

Do eye allergies last long?

Eye allergies can persist throughout the pollen season, lasting between four to eight weeks.

What is best for an eye allergy?

Your ophthalmologist will prescribe medication based on the cause of the allergy. Usually, prescribed corticosteroid eye drops are best for clearing up inflammation from an eye allergy.

Dr Philip and Dr Precious Phatudi
are skilled ophthalmologists based in Sandton