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When Allergies Get to Your Eyes

By Howard Seidman, Contributing Writer, myOptumHealth
1/20/2013 12:22:52 PM

You were mowing the lawn about 15 minutes ago. Now your eyes are watery, itchy and red. It could be eye allergies - one in five Americans has this problem.

Photo courtesy of orangeacid

Eye allergies are also known as allergic conjunctivitis. The condition comes from inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and the eye. You get symptoms when your body's immune system overreacts to an allergen.

About 80 percent to 90 percent of all eye allergies are due to seasonal allergens, like pollen or mold spores. Doctors are also seeing more cases related to medications and contact lens wear.

If you think you have eye allergies you should visit a doctor or allergist for a diagnosis. Skin tests can detect your allergic triggers. Tests are usually done in an allergist's office, and you'll often know the results within 20 minutes. In more serious cases the allergist may:

  • Examine the inside of your eyelid
  • Test a few cells from inside the eyelid

Common triggers of eye allergies are:

  • Grass
  • Tree and weed pollens
  • Pet hair
  • Dust mites
  • Molds

Signs of an eye allergy

Allergens cause cells in the eye to release histamine and other chemicals. This makes blood vessels in the eyes swell. Other symptoms may include:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Tearing
  • Burning
  • Swelling or redness of the inner eyelids
  • Light sensitivity
  • A feeling of grit in the eyes

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