If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffers from allergies, it can be a mixed blessing to welcome warmer spring weather after an especially tough winter with record-low temperatures. Why? Because spring allergy season can be difficult to deal with, especially if one of your major symptoms is red, itchy, irritated eyes.
It’s estimated that between one-fourth to one-third of all Americans suffer from allergic conjunctivitis, the medical term for allergy-inflamed eyes. Anyone who has ever experienced this common problem knows all too well the discomfort that comes with this medical condition, including excessive tearing; intense itching; burning or irritation; puffy eyelids, and redness caused by inflammation in the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eye.
What causes all of these irritating allergy symptoms?
They’re triggered by an immune response. Ironically, it’s our bodies way of reacting to and fighting off a perceived enemy – a foreign substance that could potentially be harmful. Although in this case the foreign substance is simply pollen – either from trees and plants in full bloom during spring or from ragweed or mold spores in the fall. Some people are also bothered by dust mites and pet dander year-round.
Whether your peak allergy-related complaints come in spring, fall or year-round, coping with allergy-inflamed eyes can be a daunting task if you’re trying to read the computer screen at work, tee-off for a round of golf or simply text from your iPhone.
It can be even worse if you wear contact lenses. Pollen can get on and inside the contact lens, making the eyes extremely irritable and inflamed.
What can you do to reduce eye discomfort?
If wearing contact lenses makes your eyes even worse during allergy season, consider limiting the number of hours you wear them – or avoid using them all together. If the idea of reverting back to glasses for several weeks is simply not desirable, it might be time to pursue LASIK Surgery. LASIK is the ideal option as it can reduce or eliminate dependence on corrective eyewear, giving you the potential for permanent freedom from both contact lenses and glasses.
Use temporary solutions, such as preservative-free artificial tears to flush out irritants in the eye and cold compresses to reduce itching. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs and antihistamines can also be helpful. Or ask your doctor about prescription medications specifically used to treat eye-related allergies.
Limit your time outside on days when the pollen count is particularly high. Turn on the air conditioning and keep the windows closed, even in the car.
Bathe your pet more frequently. Remember, when pets go outside, a layer of pollen may coat their fur, which they’ll bring back inside with them – making your symptoms worse.
Unfortunately, the number of people with allergies, including allergic conjunctivitis, seems to be on the rise. Even if you’ve never had allergies before, some medical experts say it’s possible to develop them at any age. There may be no cure, but you can do your best to minimize symptoms. If you know that wearing your contacts will be difficult, consider scheduling an appointment now to discuss whether LASIK may make allergy season easier. It may be the best decision you’ve ever made.