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Why Do My Eyes Itch: Do I Have Ocular Allergies?

Blog, Dry Eye  | 

why does my eye itch | ocular allergiesIt is that time of year again when the mild weather invites us to spend our time outside, but Mother Nature may have something else in mind: allergies. Allergy season arrives earlier in Phoenix than in other cities thanks to our mild climate. Based on a recent study by Quest Diagnostics, which examined the ragweed sensitization rate in different parts of the country, Phoenix now ranks among the country’s worst cities for allergies.

Those affected by allergies know the symptoms all too well. In addition to a stuffy, itchy nose and sneezing, many of us experience red, swollen and itchy eyes. Allergies can also cause the eyes to water or burn or be sensitive to light.

Tips to Avoid Allergens

The most commonly recommended treatment for allergies is to try to prevent them by avoiding allergens. This involves steps such as keeping our car windows closed and spending more time indoors, especially during the hours of 5 to 10 a.m. when pollen is usually emitted. It is also wise to avoid freshly cut grass and mowing the lawn. Machine-drying linens and clothing may also help because these can collect pollen when dried outside. We can also consider taking a vacation during times when the pollen concentration is particularly high. Wearing glasses outside is also advisable because it decreases our eyes’ exposure to allergens. You can check the pollen forecast in your area and get more information here.

Relief from Eye Allergies

While avoiding allergens can be an effective way to prevent allergy symptoms, it is not always easy because it involves changing our daily activities. Other options are available.

  • For example, using cool compresses on the eyes decreases itching
  • and artificial tears can wash out allergens and provide a barrier to entry for new ones.

If those strategies alone do not work, your eye doctor may recommend over-the-counter anti-allergy eye drops called ketotifen. He or she may also recommend prescription allergy eye drops, which have been shown to be very effective for relieving ocular allergies. Some patients may also benefit from prescription steroid eye drops or immunotherapy shots that can help the body become immune to the allergens.

It is important to understand that over-the-counter eye drops advertised as a way to “get the red out” are not a good treatment for ocular allergies. These are decongestants that may help for a while, but they can actually make symptoms worse if used for more than a few days. Also, oral antihistamines such as loratadine tablets work well for some allergy symptoms, but they often do not provide complete relief for ocular allergies and they tend to make the eyes dry.

Talk to your eye care professional about your springtime symptoms and to see if you have ocular allergies. He or she can determine whether ocular allergies are the culprit. With the right treatment, you’ll be on the road to relief and enjoying your time outdoors once again!

By: Robert Fintelmann, MD

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