What are Allergies?

Allergies are abnormal immune system reactions to things that are typically harmless to most people. When you're allergic to something, your immune system mistakenly believes that this substance is harmful to your body. (Substances that cause allergic reactions, such as certain foods, dust, plant pollen, or medicines, are known as allergens.)

How do Allergies Happen?

In order for your immune system to set up an attack against allergens, your body must be ready. The first time your body comes in contact with the allergen, cells in your body see it as something strange. Right away, they tell other immune cells in your body to remember that this allergen is unknown to the body. At this time, antibodies or molecules are made by immune cells in your body for each allergen. If for example, your allergen is grass pollen, the antibodies in your body will remember the pollen by making antibodies. Those antibodies will be ready to take on the allergic response that you would have to the pollen normally.

How do Allergies Affect You?

Of the people who have some type of allergy, about half of them, or 60 million, have eye allergies. The main symptom of eye allergy is itching. But, you may also have redness, swelling, and tearing. If your eyes are red, but there is no allergy, then you could have other symptoms like irritation or dry eye. An ophthalmologist will be able to figure out what is wrong with your eye, and will give you the right treatment. If you are having pain or vision loss, then you should see an ophthalmologist right away because, though this doesn't happen all the time, there are some serious forms of eye allergy that can harm your vision.

How do I Treat Allergies?

To treat allergies, you can follow one of a few plans. The best solution is to stay away from the allergen in the first place, if possible. But if this is hard to do, especially with our active life styles, then the following treatments are available.

Artificial Tears

You can try washing the allergen out of your eye with an eye drop called artificial tears. These can be found in your local pharmacy and can be bought over-the-counter. There are many types of artificial tears sold, and you should try different types to find the one you like best.

Medications

Medications that treat allergies help block histamines (active substances that are let go when the body comes in contact with an allergen) from stimulating nerves and blood vessels. Medications can also block the mast cell (cell that releases histamine during an allergic response) from letting go of all of its chemicals. Some of the most powerful allergy drops actually do both, help block histamine and prevent the release of chemicals from mast cells. Your doctor can select and give you one of the many successful allergy drops available. The best way to treat your eye allergies is by finding the longest lasting and most comfortable drop for you. Drop comfort is very important when treating your child’s allergies as well.

Over The Counter Products

Many people use over-the-counter allergy drops. These drops are convenient and effective for allergies that do not last long and do not occur often. However, the newer prescription drops that are available from your doctor are safer, more effective, last longer, and are more comfortable. These are one drop treatments, which are both easier for you and your child since they can be used once in the morning for relief that lasts the whole day. If none of the above methods help your eye allergies, your doctor will be able to help you with a better treatment plan.

Treating the Eyes and Nose Together

If you are one of the millions of people who have allergies in both your eyes and nose, and you take a pill to fight them, you may want to consider using other ways of treatment. For example, if you take a pill, the pill has to get into your blood stream and then go through your entire body in order to reach your nose or eyes. With this, the chance of having side effects is greater. While newer allergy pills are known to not cause as much tiredness as some of the older drugs, they still lead to major drying of the eye. This means that tears in your eyes are not as useful in washing the allergen out of the eye. They allow the allergen to stick to the eye better.

Another way to treat your eye allergies, which is better than taking pills, is by placing eye drops in your eyes. The same thing is also true with your nose. Directly placing a nasal spray in your nose will be more helpful than taking a pill. So if you have both nose and eye allergies, they will be managed more successfully by using both a nasal spray and an eye drop than just a pill alone. In fact, allergy eye drops also help your nose allergies because the drops drain from the eye into the nose.

Note: For a further description of any information on this page, please speak with your doctor.