Symptoms of Ocular Allergy that You Need to know
Symptoms of Ocular Allergy
Ocular allergies go by the clinical name allergic conjunctivitis. Simply put, conjunctivitis is inflammation of the eye’s conjunctiva, which is the membrane covering both your eyelids and eyeballs. This irritating inflammation stems from contact with foreign particles such as pollen or pet dander. Although allergies can be seasonal and highly specific to each person, the normal symptoms of ocular allergies tend to be fairly common across all patients.
Itching in the eyes is caused by histamine, a substance released naturally when your body encounters a substance to which you are allergic. It makes blood vessels enlarge and thins their walls, enabling liquid to permeate them more freely. Itching is one of the distinguishing factors that enables physicians to diagnose patients with ocular allergies as opposed to dry eye syndrome. It’s also a physical feedback loop; as your eyes itch, you’re tempted to rub them more. As you rub them, you cause them to release more histamine.
Redness is also caused by histamine. As noted above, histamine enlarges blood vessels in the eye and eyelid, leading to the redness associated with symptoms of ocular allergies. Some redness is also caused by constant rubbing of the eyes.
Burning may be present as well, but in true allergy sufferers it is less intense than the characteristic itching sensation. In fact, patients who experience burning more than itching may actually be suffering from dry eye syndrome (or, worse, they may have both seasonal allergies and dry eye syndrome at the same time). In some allergy sufferers, the sensation of a foreign body lodged in the eye (caused by inflammation of small granular tissue) may lead to burning and even photophobia (aversion and sensitivity to light).
Most allergy sufferers experience a clear discharge from the eyes as the body attempts to lubricate the eye against irritation. Occasionally a tear duct can become blocked during an allergic flare-up. Tears cannot drain effectively from the eye, so the excess becomes a source of irritation as water backs up in the eye and spills out.
Patients with a reaction more severe than a run-of-the-mill seasonal allergy may also experience other symptoms such as thick mucus discharged into the eye, severe itching, puffy eyes or swollen eyelids, or blurry vision. Have you experienced these symptoms? Has anything that you’ve tried helped?
Dr. Travis Zigler
- Dr. Travis Zigler