After a cold, wet winter, spring sunshine is a welcome relief. But for the many Oregonians who suffer from allergies, warmer weather brings the onset of sneezing, coughing and itchy, watery eyes.
Eye allergies - also called 'allergic conjunctivitis' - are a reaction to indoor and outdoor allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites and pet dander that get in the eyes and cause inflammation of the tissue that lines the inner eyelid, according to the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association (OOPA).
American Eye-Q®, a recent nationwide survey commissioned by the American Optometric Association, found almost half (44 percent) of allergy sufferers use oral antihistamines or other medications to treat their symptoms. Though antihistamines can help with typical symptoms such as runny noses and sneezing, the medication can actually make ocular symptoms worse by reducing tear quality and quantity.
To effectively treat and relieve the symptoms caused by eye allergies, patients should see their optometrist. In most cases, optometrists can soothe allergy-related conjunctivitis with prescriptions or over-the-counter eye drops depending on the patient and his or her medical history.
Fortunately, eye allergies can be curtailed and sometimes even prevented by following these recommendations from OOPA:
• Don't touch or rub your eyes.
• Wash hands often with soap and water.
• Wash bed linens and pillowcases in hot water and detergent to reduce allergens.
• Avoid sharing, and in some cases, wearing eye makeup.
• Use cold compresses like gel packs from the freezer, wrapped in a thin towel, to treat swollen and itchy eyelids.
• Use artificial tears to reduce the buildup of allergens on the eyes.
• Prescription or over-the-counter 'dual action' anti-allergy drops are effective.
For contact lenses
Spring eye allergies can be particularly hard on contact lens wearers - extended wear time and infrequent lens replacement are two of the main reasons contact lens wearers face more prevalent symptoms. OOPA recommends contact lens wearers consider the following tips to make the spring season more comfortable:
• When cleaning contact lenses, it is beneficial to rub your lenses lightly using your multipurpose or cleaning solution - even if the solution is labeled 'no rub.'
• Some patients do better with single-use (daily disposable) contact lenses, and some need to change their contact lens care systems if problems occur.
• If possible, reduce contact lens wearing time.
• If you wear disposable contact lenses, be sure you are replacing them on an approved schedule.
• Anti-allergy drops cannot be used when your contacts are in your eyes. Discuss ways of using anti-allergy drops in conjunction with contact lenses with your doctor.
To find an optometrist near you, visit the OOPA website at www.