What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is a kind of inflammation where the conjunctiva reacts to certain allergens that it comes into contact with. The conjunctiva is the membrane or the layer covering the front of your eye as well as the inside of the eyelids. When this membrane is irritated by allergens like dust or pollen, it can lead to allergic conjunctivitis. The common symptoms of this condition include red eye, swelling, itching and increased production of tears. It is advisable to seek medical help in case you suffer from these symptoms. You can read more about this kind of conjunctivitis in this article. 

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Allergic Conjunctivitis: Types, Symptoms and Treatment

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About Allergic Conjunctivitis

The inside of your eyelids and the covering of your eyeball have a membrane called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is susceptible to irritation from allergies. The irritation of the conjunctiva due to allergic reaction is known as allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is quite common. It’s your body’s reaction to substances it considers potentially harmful.

What is allergic conjunctivitis?

Often, when someone's eyes come in contact with a certain substance, it causes their body's immune system to respond to the allergen in a relatively severe manner. This reaction is known as allergic conjunctivitis.

The allergy causes the eye to become sore, inflamed and painful. Due to the irritation, the blood vessels dilate and expand, causing the nerve terminals to get irritated, too. This causes excessive secretion of tears. This is often accompanied with a runny nose.

These symptoms are caused due to the release of substances called histamines, which is the body's reaction mechanism.

What causes allergic conjunctivitis?

When your body tries to defend itself against a perceived threat, you have allergic conjunctivitis. It does this in response to factors that cause histamine to be released, a powerful chemical produced by your body to fight alien substances. The following are some substances that trigger this reaction:

  • Dust

Excessive amounts of dust in your surroundings, such as your home or place of work can trigger dust allergies, including allergic conjunctivitis.

  • Tree pollen and grass pollen

One of the most common causes of seasonal allergies is pollen. Plants release small pollen grains in the spring, summer, and fall to fertilise other plants of the same species. Trees, weeds, and grasses produce the majority of pollen that causes allergic responses. Pollen grains from these plants are small, light, and dry, and they are carried by the wind.

  • Spores of mould

Mold is a fungus that thrives in damp environments, both indoors and out. Mold spores are the most common allergen in mould. Because these spores can eventually make their way into the air, they can get into your nose as well. An allergic reaction occurs as a result of this.

While mould spores in the air can cause reactions, the situation becomes worse when these spores stick to a wet surface and molds begin to grow.

  • Dander from animals

Dander is a substance that is shed by humans and other animals with fur, hair, or feathers. It is the skin flakes that fall off an animal's main body.

Dander is tiny and can be carried through the air in household dust, where it feeds dust mites. Dander can penetrate the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs through the air, causing allergies in those who are vulnerable to it.

  • Household detergents or perfumes

Chemical scents can contain substances that trigger allergic reactions.

  • Medication

There can often be an allergic response to the use of specific medications or chemicals, such as contact lens solution or medicinal eye drops

What are the types of allergic conjunctivitis?

Since allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction, it can be set off due to different reasons. Therefore, there are different types of allergic conjunctivitis.

  • Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (seasonal allergic conjunctivitis)

Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is known as hay fever as well. In regions with chilly winters, pollen is the most prevalent allergen that causes conjunctivitis. Typically, it takes place in the spring and summer when the flora has a lot of pollen. Some people get symptoms in the early autumn too.

Symptoms of pollen-induced allergic conjunctivitis include sneezing, an itchy, irritation in the nose, and eye itching.

  • Contact dermatoconjunctivitis (contact allergic conjunctivitis)

Cosmetics, eyedrops, and other substances that irritate the conjunctiva can induce these symptoms. An allergic reaction occurs when these compounds come into contact with the body. Some people are hypersensitive to certain chemicals. After the chemical comes into contact with the eyes, symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 days later.

  • Giant papillary conjunctivitis

This is a common side effect of wearing contact lenses. Contact lenses can be uncomfortable for some people. This might get worse and more unpleasant with time, causing the eyes to become red.

It can also happen if a person has had eye surgery and is wearing hard contact lenses. Infections of the eye can be caused by poor hygiene when handling contact lenses, solutions and cases.

  • Perennial conjunctivitis

Perennial conjunctivitis is a type of conjunctivitis that lasts all year. It is primarily caused by an allergy to house dust mites. Dust mites feed on human skin cells and warm, humid settings.

An allergic reaction to a specific dust mite protein is known as dust-mite allergy. Conjunctivitis, a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and asthma are all symptoms of this condition. Small scales from animal skins, hair, or bird feathers are among the other reasons. Some people may experience an allergic reaction to them.

Who is at risk for allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is more prone to occur in people who already have allergies, hereditary or otherwise. Allergies affect people of all ages, while children and young adults are especially susceptible. If you have allergies and reside in an area with a lot of pollen, you're more likely to get allergic conjunctivitis.

What are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is characterised by the following symptoms in most cases.

  1. All types of allergic conjunctivitis cause severe itchiness and burning in both eyes.

  2. Although both eyes are normally affected equally, one eye may be more impacted than the other in rare cases.

  3. The conjunctiva gets red and expands, creating a puffy look on the surface of the eyeball.

  4. It's possible that your eyelids will get quite irritated. Rubbing and scratching cause redness, edoema, and a wrinkled appearance on the eyelid skin.

  5. A substantial amount of thin, watery discharge is common. The discharge can be stringy at times.

  6. Vision is rarely harmed.

  7. Many people suffer from a runny, itchy nose, too.

How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?

Your eyes will be examined, and your allergy history will be reviewed by your doctor. Conjunctivitis is apparent as redness in the white of the eye and tiny pimples inside the eyelids. One of the following tests may be ordered by your doctor:

  • An allergy skin test allows your doctor to assess how your body reacts to certain allergens.

  • A blood test may be recommended to determine whether your body produces proteins, or antibodies, to protect itself from allergens such as mould or dust.

  • To analyse your white blood cells, a scraping of your conjunctival tissue may be removed. When you have allergies, your white blood cells, called eosinophils, become active.

Allergic conjunctivitis treatment

Allergic conjunctivitis is a treatable condition. In mild cases, there are a variety of home remedies you can follow. However, please visit a doctor at the earliest if your symptoms persist and/or worsen. Please do not consume any medication without a doctor's prescription.

1. Home care

To relieve the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, you can use a combination of preventative methods and activities at home.

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes to relieve your discomfort.

  • A cool compress applied to your eyes might also help to relieve irritation and itching.

To reduce your allergy exposure, follow these steps:

  • When the pollen count seems to be high, close the windows. Typically, there is a high pollen count during flowering seasons- spring and late autumn.

  • Maintain a dust-free environment in your house

  • Invest in an air purifier for your home.

  • Stay away from harsh chemicals, colours and perfumes.

2. Medications

In more difficult circumstances, home care may not be sufficient. You should see a doctor, who may prescribe the following options:

  • Anti-inflammation eye drops to minimize histamine release

  • Congested blood vessels can be reduced with eye drops.

  • Eye drops with steroids.

What is the long-term outlook?

You can get relief or at least a reduction in your symptoms if you get the right treatment. Frequent and recurring exposure to allergens, on the other hand, will almost certainly result in the same symptoms in the future. Therefore, you must be aware and note the substances that seem to trigger allergic reactions, and avoid them as much as possible. You can consult with your doctor to determine if there are any anti-allergic medications that can help reduce your susceptibility to allergies.

Allergic conjunctivitis prevention

It is impossible to completely avoid the environmental variables that cause allergic conjunctivitis. Limiting your exposure to these triggers is the best thing you can do. You might also think about getting an air purifier for your home, maintaining duty free environments and using a mask when you go out in pollen season or dusty areas.

Additionally, ensure that all products such as eye comentic and contact lenses are clean, and do not share any eye cosmetics or make up brushes with anyone to minimize allergic reactions.

Conclusion

When an allergen, a substance that causes the body's immune system to overreact, comes into contact with a person's eyes, the conjunctiva is irritated, causing allergic conjunctivitis.

The condition is not too severe, and can often be treated with some simple home remedies. However, you must visit a doctor if the symptoms persist and/or worsen, to rule out any underlying severe condition.

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