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Eye Allergies

What Are Eye Allergies?

Eye allergies, also called “allergic conjunctivitis,” are the eyes’ response to environmental irritants and allergens. Their symptoms range in severity from uncomfortable to debilitating but fortunately are often treatable. If you suspect you have eye allergies, speak with Dr. Aleem Bandali about finding lasting relief.

Understanding Eye Allergies

What Causes Eye Allergies?

Allergies occur when the immune system becomes hypersensitized to certain allergens — otherwise harmless substances, such as pollen or dust mites. When allergens are introduced to the body, histamines are released in the blood-stream, causing inflammation and swelling.

Some airborne allergens that can cause eye allergies include:

  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen

Non-airborne allergens include:

  • Makeup
  • Perfume
  • Skin care products
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Contact lens solutions
  • Preservatives in multi-use eye drops

Symptoms of Eye Allergies

When the blood vessels in the eyes are affected during an allergic reaction, the following symptoms can arise:

  • Red eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy or irritated eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Burning or painful eyes

How Are Eye Allergies Treated?

There are several approaches to treating eye allergies and Dr. Aleem Bandali can help determine which options best suit your symptoms.

Limit Allergen Exposure

One of the best ways to reduce allergy flare-ups is to avoid allergens altogether or at least reduce exposure to them. If pollen causes your eyes to become red and itchy, try driving with the windows closed and limit your time outdoors. Additionally, wearing wrap-around glasses can shield your eyes from irritants and possibly allergens.

Take Antihistamines or Decongestants

Histamine is what gets released in the bloodstream and causes the allergic response. Antihistamines work by blocking the attachment of histamine to the body’s cells that produce the allergic reaction, thus reducing or eliminating symptoms.

Decongestants can help you breathe easier by shrinking swollen nasal pathways that may have become inflamed due to allergies. Decongestants can also shrink the blood vessels in the whites of the eyes (sclera), relieving red eyes.

Try Eye Drops

Over-the-counter lubricating and antihistamine eye drops can help soothe red, itchy, and irritated eyes. Dr. Aleem Bandali can recommend the brand and type that will offer the best relief, or prescribe more potent eye drops than the ones available at your local drugstore.

Aside from soothing irritated eyes, lubricating eye drops and artificial tears can help flush the eye of allergens and remove any foreign substances.

Temporarily Remove Your Contact Lenses

Allergens can accumulate on the surface of contact lenses, which makes it difficult to get rid of symptoms while wearing lenses. If you suffer from eye allergies, try temporarily switching to glasses and see if your symptoms persist. Typically, the best contact lenses for those with eye allergies are daily disposables, which are discarded daily.

Visit Your Eye Doctor

An eye exam with Dr. Aleem Bandali is the best way to rule out other possible eye conditions and determine the root cause of your symptoms. If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above and suspect you have eye allergies, don’t hesitate to call Aspen Eye Care today to schedule your eye exam.

12 Tips for Optimal Eye Health

Good Eye Care Habits & Hygiene

By practicing good eye care habits and hygiene, you can prevent many vision problems from occurring. Eye problems and the risks associated with vision loss only grow as you age. By neglecting eye care, you place yourself at a higher risk of suffering from cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and low vision.

So make sure you maintain great eye health by following these 12 tips for optimal eye health.  

1. Avoid rubbing your eyes

Itchy eyes can be a hallmark symptom of allergies, and though rubbing may bring temporary relief, it ultimately increases swelling and worsens the itch. If you wear contact lenses, rubbing your eyes can also dislodge or even break a lens, causing the lens to get lost or scratch the cornea. Plus, eye rubbing can lead to eye infections, since our hands are typically covered with a host of germs.

2. Regularly wash your hands

Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is often caused by germs and bacteria carried to your eyes by unclean hands. Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water helps keep bacteria away and prevents eye contamination. Prior to inserting or removing contact lenses, make sure to wash your hands with mild soap and dry them using a lint-free towel. 

3. Beware of UV rays

By exposing yourself to sunlight and UV rays, you increase the risk of developing macular degeneration and corneal sunburn. Beyond just adding some style and zest to your look, sunglasses should protect your eyes from dangerous UV rays. Speak to your optometrist about the different options available for people who wear prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses too, to keep your eyes safe in the sun.

4. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial for your body’s overall health and wellbeing — and that includes your eyes. Among other complications, if you don’t have enough fluid in your body, it impacts tear production and can cause dry eyes and irritation. Drink up!  

5. Don’t smoke cigarettes

Need some extra motivation to quit smoking? 

Smokers are more prone to developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and other eye conditions. Cigarette smoking can also destroy optic nerves, which can adversely affect your vision over time. So think twice before you light up, and speak to your doctor about getting help to quit. 

6. Eat a healthy diet

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to ensure that your diet is rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamins A and C. These can be found in leafy greens (your mom was right about spinach!), orange vegetables (think, carrots and sweet potato) and citrus fruit. Furthermore, fatty fish like salmon contain essential omega-3 fatty acids which also promote excellent eye health. 

7. Keep a healthy distance from screens

Nip digital eye strain in the bud by positioning your computer monitor about an arm’s length away from the eyes and 20 degrees below eye level. Ideally, work in a room with enough diffused lighting to reduce stress on your eyes from the computer light.

8. Remember the 20-20-20 rule 

Speaking of computers, have you heard of the 20-20-20 rule? When using digital devices, rest your eyes every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet away for 20 continuous seconds. 

Once you’re at it, blink 20 times in succession to prevent dry eyes, and make it a habit to rise from your seat and take 20 steps to promote good posture and blood circulation, which helps your vision too.  

9. Be careful with eye make-up 

Make sure that your eye shadow, mascara, and eyeliner don’t cause your eyes an allergic reaction. Get in the habit of removing your make-up before going to sleep in order to avoid bacterial build-up from residual make-up left in the eye area. And, from time to time, clean your make-up brushes, especially those used to apply cosmetics around the eye area.

10. Sleep is golden

Just as with the rest of your body, your eyes need a break. So make sure that you get sufficient shut-eye (8 hours) each night to keep your eyes revitalized and healthy.

11. Wear protective eyewear 

Whatever you do, make sure your eyes are well-protected. If you’re swimming, wear goggles to prevent chlorine from entering your eyes. If you’re gardening or engaged in a DIY project at home, wear safety glasses to keep dust particles and bacteria at bay and prevent eye injuries. Ask your local eye doctor about protective eyewear for sports and other activities.

12. Regularly visit your eye doctor

Don’t underestimate the importance of getting a routine eye exam, whether you need an updated prescription or not. Even if you can see well today, a comprehensive eye exam can pick up early signs of eye diseases and conditions before symptoms become noticeable, such as glaucoma, diabetes, retinal holes which could lead to retinal detachment, and cancers like melanoma. Early detection and management can prevent further complications and serious vision loss down the line.

Only an eye doctor has the required knowledge, experience, tools and techniques to determine whether you have these or other eye conditions.

It is recommended that everyone gets a comprehensive eye exam once a year (or at least every two years). Children, whose eyes are rapidly developing, and people at higher risk for developing eye problems such as diabetics and older people, need to undergo eye exams even more frequently: at the minimum, yearly. 

During the evaluation, the eye doctor will check for things like: 

  • Farsightedness, nearsightedness, astigmatism and/or presbyopia
  • Eye coordination 
  • Optic nerve and eye pressure tests to spot glaucoma

It’s also important to be on the look-out for any changes in your vision. If you experience hazy or double vision, worsening eyesight, red eyes, eye pain, swelling or floaters, contact Dr. Aleem Bandali.  

Incorporate these tips and habits into your lifestyle to maintain healthy eyes and a high quality of life. Aspen Eye Care offers comprehensive eye exams in Sherwood Park, Alberta, and will be happy to answer any questions you may have about ways to maintain healthy vision.