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Springtime and Itchy Eyes — Allergies or Something Else?

Springtime brings allergies and with it, itchy eyes. As many as 50 million Americans are affected by allergic conjunctivitis. There are different causes including environmental, seasonal, and genetic factors. Medications can also contribute to symptoms including tearing, mucous filled eyes, puffy eyelids, intense itching, burning, and red eyes. The clinical findings an ophthalmologist may see are redness of the eyes, dilation of blood vessels and tiny bumps and excess mucous that can appear in the inferior aspect of the eyelids. As far as treatments, many times, just modifying the environmental conditions can help. Cool compresses and preservative-free artificial teardrops can work very well and many times over-the-counter ocular allergy drugs can help to decrease symptoms. Other treatments will include systemic antihistamines, which can have side effects such as sedation and dizziness. However, if you have dry eyes, over-the-counter antihistamine drops or oral antihistamines can exacerbate a dry eye condition.
Before starting on any antihistamine drop, it is very important to be evaluated by an ophthalmologist to make sure you don’t have a condition called blepharitis (evaporative dry eye). This is an inflammation of the eyelids, which can also cause itchy eyelids, and in this particular condition, antihistamine medications may dry the eye out further.
It’s important to get a thorough evaluation by an ophthalmologist to evaluate what type of conjunctivitis/allergic changes you may be experiencing and then appropriate treatment can be instituted. In some situations a mild eye steroid eye drop will be recommended for the surface of the eyes, but this needs to be monitored closely since steroids can have side effects.
It’s also a good idea to see an allergist to determine if you’re experiencing seasonal allergies, what exactly is triggering your symptoms and what specific treatment is needed to alleviate the problem.

If you have a question regarding your eyes and eye health please write to me at www.janetzappala.com and click on Eye on Eye Health and I’ll get back to you with an answer.

Dr. Mina Massaro
Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology
University of Pennsylvania
Scheie Eye Institute

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