Many of my patients suffer from allergies (sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy throat), but I find that most
people do not know that allergies can affect the eyes as well. In fact, 1 in 4 suffer from ocular allergies! Eye allergies develop when our body overreacts to a certain irritant in the environment.
What are some symptoms of ocular allergies?
What causes them?
There are so many allergens out there. The best way to know for sure would be to see an allergist and
get tested. The most common outdoor allergies are from pollen. For indoors, pets, dust, and mold are
the main culprits. Perfume, smoke, and diesel exhaust are other irritants that can make allergies worse.
How do you treat eye allergies?
Most of the time, allergies can be alleviated with over-the-counter products. Artificial tears are great to
use, they wash away allergens on the front surface of the eye. Preservative-free tears are even better
because they contain fewer additives than the preserved kind have. There are also some over-the-
counter options that are specifically for allergies. Pataday is my favorite. It used to require a prescription
but now it is available OTC. It is an ocular antihistamine and works wonders for itching! Zaditor and
Alaway are two other over-the-counter antihistamines that I recommend.
Some prescription options are available as well, but I do not use these as frequently. I find that for most
patients, the OTC options work great. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help with
itching. Steroid eye drops work well for severe itching but should not be used long-term and you need to
be monitored by an optometrist if you are taking these. They can cause glaucoma, cataracts, and carry a
higher risk for infections.
If eye drops don’t work, oral antihistamines may be recommended. Keep in mind that these may cause
dry eye symptoms that make the eyes feel worse. Allergy shots may be a good option for severe
allergies as well.
How to prevent allergies
The best way to prevent allergies is to avoid triggers. Wearing glasses or sunglasses help protect your
eyes from allergens. Using an air conditioner and closing windows when pollen is high also helps. Make
sure to limit dust by dusting frequently with a wet rag. Dehumidifiers are great to help control mold.
And most important- wash your hands and avoid rubbing or touching your eyes!