Cascades Women's Health - Red Eye Relief

Cascades Women's Health - Red Eye Relief

The arrival of fall brings crisp air and an array of colors. Unfortunately, some people will look at the yellow leaves and orange pumpkins through red eyes. About 22 million people in the United States suffer from allergic conjunctivitis (itchy, watery, red eyes). Allergic conjunctivitis is one of the most common forms of ocular allergy and often occurs in the fall.

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctivae, the shiny membrane covering the front of the eye, is exposed to allergens and becomes inflamed, according to Frank Graziano, M.D., FAAAAI of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology''s (AAAAI) and chair of the AAAAI''s ocular allergy program which educates health care professionals on allergic conjunctivitis. When allergens come in contact with the eye, histamine and other chemicals are released by the body''s mast cells, the main cells involved in allergic reactions. While eye reactions can occur alone, they usually are associated with nasal allergic symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, congestion).

* Itching of the eyes and surrounding area;

* Swollen eyelids, usually on both sides.

"Allergic conjunctivitis appears in two forms: seasonal and perennial," Graziano said. "Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is the most common type of allergic conjunctivitis, and is associated with seasonal allergies or hayfever, which occur during the spring, summer and early fall. It is caused by exposure to airborne allergens, such as grass, tree and weed pollens and molds. Perennial allergic conjunctivitis persists throughout the year and is usually triggered by indoor allergens such as dust mites, animal dander and indoor molds."

Allergies of the eye can be extremely disturbing, but by taking the following steps, symptoms can be prevented and controlled:

* Avoid the allergens triggering your symptoms.

* Use cold compresses for significant relief from eye itching. Generally, all eye medicines, if refrigerated, provide additional relief when immediately applied in a cold state.

* Use tear substitutes ("artificial tears") to lubricate, dilute and remove allergens in the eyes.

* Prescription medications, which typically come in the form of eye drops, are very effective in alleviating symptoms. Drops with antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers or both are very effective and have few side effects.

You may also be tempted to use over-the-counter eye drops which claim to relieve eye-related allergy symptoms. However, these medications can have potentially serious adverse effects and are not always effective. In addition, oral antihistamines alone often do not provide adequate relief and can cause drowsiness. "Allergic conjunctivitis is a very common problem in our population that poses a serious threat to quality of life, employee productivity and takes a high economic toll when inappropriately treated or left untreated," Graziano said. "If you''re experiencing symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, see an allergist/immunologist, who will prescribe the best treatment for you."

Eye drops can be challenging to administer. Here are some tips from The Allergy Report for administering eye drops:

* Steady hand by resting it on face.

* Approach eye from side or top.

* Keep eye open, and pull down lower lid, forming a pouch.

* Look up to prevent blinking and draining of medicine.

* Place drop on inside corner of eyelid.

* Open eye slowly for drop to fall in.

* Look up to prevent blinking and draining of medicine.

* When administering multiple eye medications, wait 5 to 15 minutes before delivering second medication to same eye in order to prevent dilution.

* Eye drop medical devices are available.

* Avoid contaminating eye dispenser from contact with eye, eyelid, eyelashes, or finger.

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