Eye Health Blog by Dr. Vernon Schlueter, Bellevue, Nebraska

VernonSchlueterODIf you have never experienced the symptoms related to eye allergies, consider yourself fortunate.  Allergy eye symptoms are annoying, distracting and uncomfortable. I know this all too well as my eye allergy symptoms have worsened in recent years.

Allergy eye issues vary from individual to individual due to the amount of allergens the person encounters in their environment and the intensity of that individual’s allergic reaction to those allergens.  I may have symptoms that result from being near my dog whereas someone else is affected only if they are exposed to cut grass.

Some of the classic eye allergy symptoms involve: itching, watering/tearing, scratchy/gritty or foreign body sensation (like an eyelash in the eye yet there is no eyelash present) swollenness and redness of the eyes.

There is a segment of the population that has dealt with respiratory and eye related allergies for most or all of their life. These individuals are usually quite knowledgeable about what allergens trigger their symptoms and what treatment options work best for them.

However, many of my patients are like me and have begun to experience allergy eye symptoms in recent years. The problem is that body chemistry changes over time, our diets change over time, our environments are constantly changing and allergen populations have been greatly  increasing over time. Because there are greater concentrations of allergens in the environment now, more and more individuals are being affected by allergies.

I find that many patients with allergy eyes don’t realize what a comfortable eye should feel like because they have been dealing with these irritating allergy symptoms for so long. Others have self-medicated themselves using various over-the-counter products without successfully relieving their symptoms. Unfortunately, many individuals erroneously conclude that there is no successful treatment for their symptoms and they end up just dealing with their symptoms.

So do you just have to deal with all these allergy eye symptoms? Do allergy sufferers have to give up wearing their contacts? Should you just take up residence in the controlled environment of a bubble so you can avoid all of the world’s allergens? The answers to these questions are no, hopefully not and absolutely not, respectfully.

If you are an allergy eye sufferer, I have great news for you. You are an optometric visit away from achieving allergy eye relief. Optometrists can examine, diagnose, treat and manage your allergy symptoms. During an eye examination, the optometrist will discuss with you your symptoms and then will evaluate your eye under a microscope to determine what treatment plan will best be suited to relieve your symptoms. There are a number of treatment options that optometrists can prescribe to relieve the symptoms of eye allergies. The relief that most allergy sufferers experience when the allergy eye treatment plan is in place is quite remarkable.

I highly recommend that if you are experiencing any eye discomfort or have symptoms that just don’t feel normal to you, make an appointment with an optometrist to determine why your eyes are feeling the way that they are. If you are diagnosed with allergy eyes, your optometrist may prescribe you medication and/or advise you to do things to reduce your exposure to the allergens in order to alleviate your symptoms.

I firmly believe that a combination of prescription medication in addition to reduction of allergens is the key to successful management of allergy eyes. Here are some of my recommendations for reducing your exposure to allergens in your environment:

  • Check and replace your furnace and car air filters often.
  • When driving in your car, select the ventilation option to recycle the air instead of drawing in air from outside.
  • Continuously run an air purifier in your bedroom.
  • Change pillow cases daily and bed sheets twice per week to reduce the buildup of allergens in your bed.
  • Remove eyelid make up at the end of the day.
  • If you are a smoker, realize that the smoking is likely making your allergy symptoms worse so becoming a non-smoker can greatly reduce your allergy symptoms.
  • Keep your bed and bedroom off limits to pets that may be contributing to your symptoms.
  • Shower before bed to wash allergens off of your body and out of your hair.
  • Do not open home windows during peak allergy season.
  • Try to identify what allergens affect you the most (pets, dust, cut grass) and find ways to avoid them. Find out if your local paper or newscast reports what allergens are expected to be in highest concentration for that day. Use this as a guide to predict your level of sensitivity for that given day.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes and if you do rub, do so gently and make sure you wash your hands before you rub.
  • If you are a contact lens wearer, strictly follow your optometrist’s recommendation for contact lens wear and solution care. Allergy sufferers will benefit by not sleeping with their contacts on. Talk to your optometrist about what contact lenses and contact lens solutions may be available to increase your comfort during peak allergy seasons.

Allergy symptoms are irritating, bothersome and can easily diminish one’s quality of life. There are enough stressors in life, don’t let allergy eyes add unnecessary stress to your life. Schedule an appointment with your optometrist to determine if you have allergy eye issues and, if so, what treatment options are available for you.