Eye Allergies & Contacts: Everything You Need To Know
Do you suffer from eye allergies? Do you also wear contacts? Join us as we cover the basics of proper eye care for contact wearers who suffer from allergic conjunctivitis – aka “eye allergies.”
Eye Allergy Basics
Formally known as “allergic conjunctivitis,” eye allergies are quite common among Americans. According to Melvin I. Roat (MD, FACS), “about 20% of people have some degree of allergic conjunctivitis.”
With eye allergies affecting one in five people, there’s no small chance you’re one of them. If you think you suffer from eye allergies, the first step toward treatment is diagnosis.
What are the most common eye allergy symptoms?
If you suffer from allergic conjunctivitis, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Redness or pinkness
- Itchiness and discomfort
- Burning sensations
- Teary, watery eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Blurry vision
- Swollen eyelids
Of course, it’s important to speak with your physician about your symptoms to determine the best treatment for you. Likewise, discuss your symptoms with an eye doctor or allergist/immunologist to see what they recommend.
What causes eye allergies?
Eye allergies are caused by an autoimmune response to an external trigger that your body mistakenly deems “dangerous.” As a result, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious; you can’t pass it to anyone else, and nobody else can pass it to you.
Any number of things can trigger this reaction. Some people are set off by indoor sources like dust, mold, or pet dander. Others are affected by outdoor pollens in the spring, summer, and autumn. Even dust mites can cause a flare up among certain individuals.
Additionally, man-made factors like perfumes, cigar/cigarette smoke, and vehicle exhaust trigger allergies in some people.
Ultimately, the cause depends on the individual. If you’re interested in understanding the reason for your allergies, speak with your physician or an allergist/immunologist about an allergy test.
How long do eye allergies last?
It depends on the person and exposure to triggers. The amount of time allergies last can range from seasonal to year-round.
Some people suffer from “seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.” This means their triggers aren’t always present. As a result, these individuals are typically affected by pollen and mold spores in the spring, summer, and autumn.
Others experience “perennial allergic conjunctivitis.” For these people, triggers aren’t limited to seasonal factors and may include dust mites or animal dander.
Are eye allergies dangerous?
While bothersome, eye allergies aren’t overly dangerous and shouldn’t lead to any permanent eye damage. ( aaaai.org)
Contact Lenses & Eye Allergies
If you wear contact lenses to correct your vision, you may have concerns about how they’ll affect your eye allergies. Likewise, you may be wondering how your allergies affect the way you wear your contacts.
Can I wear contact lenses if I have eye allergies?
Yes! You can still wear your contact lenses if you suffer from eye allergies.
Not everyone likes to wear glasses. Fortunately, it’s okay to wear contacts, even if you have allergies. However, you must take precautions when you wear contacts.
What precautions should I take if I wear contacts and have eye allergies?
If you wear contacts, there are actions you can take to get ahead of your symptoms for greater relief.
Keep your eyes moist.
Lubricating drops designed for safe use with contacts can help alleviate symptoms. Of course, not all eyedrops are the same. Follow the directions and make sure you’re using rewetting drops designed specifically for contact wearers.
Keep your contacts clean.
This is super important. If you don’t clean your contacts, there’s a chance they’ll be contaminated with the very allergens that trigger your symptoms. By cleaning your contacts in accordance to the manufacturer’s recommendations, you can offset the negative impact of dirty contacts on sensitive eyes.
Switch to daily disposable lenses.
Alternatively, switching to daily disposable lenses could be a better option. This ensures you’re always wearing fresh, sterile contacts that haven’t been exposed to allergens.
Avoid touching your eyes and exposing yourself to allergens.
Keep your hands clean. Wash your face often. Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. Through these simple actions, you help reduce the chances of aggravating your symptoms.
Likewise, cutting general exposure to dust, pollen, animal dander, mold spores, and other triggers will help regardless of whether you wear contacts.
Talk to your doctor.
Your doctor is an invaluable resource when it comes to eye allergies. They can give you additional suggestions and treatment options specific to your needs.
Could my contacts be causing my eye allergies or making them worse
It’s unlikely your contacts are causing your allergies. However, if you have a change in prescription or notice an unusual reaction to your contacts, eye drops, or contact cleaning solution, switch back to glasses. Discuss your experience and symptoms with your eye doctor immediately.
Now that you know more about eye allergies and contacts, let’s talk treatment.
How do you treat or get rid of eye allergies?
Because allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an overreaction of the body’s immune system, there’s no virus or infection to cure. Instead, you must treat your symptoms while reducing your exposure to triggers.
Treatments for eye allergies are akin to treatment for other allergies, including nasal and sinus allergies. If you suffer from indoor allergies, make a point to keep your living and working space clean.
- Invest in air purifiers designed to remove allergens from the air.
- Vacuum the space regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum.
- Make a habit of dusting and cleaning your home and/or office.
Through these simple actions, you can reduce the presence of allergens wherever you spend the most time, improving your quality of life.
What medical treatments are available?
Certain over-the-counter medications can also alleviate your symptoms. In addition to avoiding allergens, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends treating eye allergies with eyedrops and medicine, including:
- Antihistamine/mast-cell stabilizers
- Artificial tears
- Decongestants (with or without antihistamines)
- Immunotherapy shots
- Oral antihistamines
Note that a few of these options may require a prescription. If your symptoms are unresponsive to over-the-counter treatments, it’s time to seek professional help.
When should I see a doctor?
Right away. After all, you want to be sure you’re getting proper treatment for your symptoms. In addition to over-the-counter options, your doctor can guide you through treatment, providing solutions you may not have found otherwise.Related Articles:
- How Stress and Anxiety May Damage Your Vision
- The Risks of Halloween Contact Lenses
- The Most Dangerous Sports For Eye Safety