Allergic Conjunctivitis

Friday, Apr 1, 2022 by Nisha Gupta, MD

This month’s topic will be the common ailment allergic conjunctivitis.

What is allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammatory reaction due to an allergic reaction. There are several types of allergic conjunctivitis. The typical forms are seasonal or perennial (occurring year-round) after exposure to an allergen such as pollen, dust, or mold. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis occurs seasonally and usually affects young males in warm climates. Atopic can affect teens and adults and does not change with the seasons.

What are the symptoms?

This usually affects both eyes and the primary symptom is intense itching. The eyes can become very red, and the lids may become swollen. The eyes may tear or there may be a mucous discharge.

How is this diagnosed?

A comprehensive eye exam is needed to diagnose the type of allergic conjunctivitis. The eye exam includes checking visual acuity and eye pressure, slit lamp exam, and dilated eye exam. All forms may show red eyes and swollen eye lids. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis can affect both the conjunctiva and cornea. The cornea may show small yellow-white dots on the edges and there may be small bumps of the conjunctiva under the upper eye lid. Atopic keratoconjunctivitis can also affect these eye structures. It can cause more eye swelling and in severe cases can cause scarring and cataract formation.

What are the treatments?

The first line treatment is to use a topical eye drop or take allergy pills. Combination drops can be used to target multiple pathways that cause the allergic reaction. Occasionally non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are used as well. Lubricating eye drops can be helpful for symptoms. Steroid eye drops may be used for the vernal and atopic types.

It is important to avoid any triggers and be careful not to rub the eyes to prevent complications that can occur over time. Cold compresses can be very soothing for the eyes. It may be necessary to see an allergy specialist for additional management.

Remember, there are many causes for red eyes. Make sure to see an ophthalmologist for any new symptoms and get treatment if necessary.

Return next month for a discussion on a new topic!

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