On the inside of your eyelid and covering the whites of your eyes is a clear membrane, called the conjunctiva. If this gets irritated due to allergies and then becomes inflamed, it causes allergic conjunctivitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis isn’t contagious, and with the right advice, it’s really easy to treat.
Who gets allergic conjunctivitis?
Anyone can have an allergic reaction that can lead to developing a case of allergic conjunctivitis. In fact, it’s possibly underdiagnosed as many people don’t seek medical advice or treatment and prefer to look after it at home.
However, it can be more common amongst people who already have other allergy issues such as allergic rhinitis and eczema.
How common is allergic conjunctivitis?
It’s estimated that around 15-40% of the population may have it at any one time. Many people who have it don’t seek out treatment, as they might not be sure what it is, so it’s sometimes left undiagnosed.
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What causes allergic conjunctivitis?
Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when your immune system interacts with something it’s sensitive to, and it brings on the symptoms that are associated with the condition as a reaction.
Some of the more common types of allergy that cause allergic conjunctivitis are hayfever, house dust mites, allergies to animals or pets (which can be caused by their hair and dander) and allergies to cosmetics and skincare.
What are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis?
The main symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are:
itchy eyes which may feel gritty
red and inflamed skin inside your eyelids
a pink tinge on the whites of your eyelids (allergic conjunctivitis is sometimes called pink-eye)
a stinging and burning sensation in your eyes (but they shouldn’t feel painful)
swollen eyelids (in more severe cases your eyelids may look lumpy)
Can allergic conjunctivitis lead to other problems?
Allergic conjunctivitis shouldn’t lead to any other complications. It’s always worth seeking out some medical advice if it’s the first time you’ve ever experienced it though, to make sure it’s diagnosed properly and that you get the right treatment.
Even though it might be really itchy, it’s important to remember not to rub your eyes whilst you’re waiting for diagnosis and undergoing treatment. This will minimise discomfort and also prevent any damage to your eyes.
If you’ve had treatment for allergic conjunctivitis and it hasn’t resolved, the best course of action is to have a chat with a clinician to make sure there are no other underlying causes. Similarly, if you develop issues with blurry or cloudy vision, it’s best to get medical advice straight away as allergic conjunctivitis shouldn’t cause issues with your sight.
What medications are there for allergic conjunctivitis?
The first line treatment for allergic conjunctivitis is usually antihistamines, often in the form of eye drops or tablets. They’re very effective and work quickly to help minimise symptoms.
Some people might also be prescribed steroid treatment called corticosteroids. They’re not prescribed quite as often as they can have side effects. They also tend to only be given in more severe cases when other treatments haven’t worked as well or the condition keeps recurring.
Mast cell stabilisers are also used in the form of eye drops. They need to be used quite frequently (up to four times a day) and take slightly longer to work but are still very effective.
Is there a ‘best’ treatment for allergic conjunctivitis?
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating allergic conjunctivitis and it will largely depend on your symptoms and what’s right for you.
Antihistamine treatments such as tablets and eye drops will often also help with any other allergic symptoms you might have. For example, hay fever symptoms.
If you know you may be exposed to an allergen that will cause a flare-up of allergic conjunctivitis in advance, such as visiting someone who has a pet you’re allergic to, you can take one of the treatments that contain mast cell stabilisers before you go to help your immune system.
If you experience repeated, severe flare-ups of allergic conjunctivitis, the best course of action might be to take steroid treatment.
Does allergic conjunctivitis always need treatment?
You can reduce your chances of getting allergic conjunctivitis by finding out which particular allergen sets it off and then avoiding exposure to it. For example, if you know there’s a particular cosmetic or make up product you use that causes a flare-up, it may be best to look for a new one and patch test it.
To treat allergic conjunctivitis at home, you can use cold compresses on the eyes to help with symptoms. It can also help not to rub the eyes at all and if you wear contact lenses, it’s best to avoid putting them in and wear glasses instead until it clears.
FAQ: Allergic conjunctivitis
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Are there tests for allergic conjunctivitis?
There are no tests to diagnose allergic conjunctivitis specifically. It’s usually best to look at the patient’s eyes and find out about their symptoms. You’ll be referred for tests with a specialist if there is any chance it might be a more serious condition.
Are there different types of conjunctivitis?
There are several different forms of conjunctivitis, its usually caused by either infection or allergy. The most common infections are bacterial and viral:
bacterial conjunctivitis - this is often caused by exposure to germs like staphylococcus and streptococcus and it’ll need antibiotics in the form of eye drops or ointments to treat it. This type of conjunctivitis can be spread from contact with an infected individual who might have a sinus or ear infection.
viral conjunctivitis - this often occurs as a side effect from having a respiratory virus like the common cold, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) or even measles. Whilst it can feel and look unpleasant, the good news is that this form of conjunctivitis will disappear on its own often, though not always, without the need for treatment and won’t need antibiotics. Eye drops and antihistamines are the best treatments for it.
How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?
It’s usually diagnosed by examining the symptoms you have and then checking up on your medical history to see if you have any past history of allergies or hay fever.
There are other forms of conjunctivitis that occur and they’ll need to be ruled out before any diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis is given.
Can you get side effects from allergic conjunctivitis treatment?
Any side effects from treatments for allergic conjunctivitis such as antihistamines will be mild and short-lived. You can sometimes have a dry mouth or feel a bit drowsy. Eye drops used for treatment can sometimes cause a burning or stinging sensation in the eye, but this normally passes quickly.
Does allergic conjunctivitis treatment always work?
Treatments used for allergic conjunctivitis can ease any symptoms you have and reduce any allergic reaction, meaning that the length of time a bout of allergic conjunctivitis lasts can be greatly reduced.
However, they won’t cure your allergy. Your immune system can sometimes react to the same allergen again, causing the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis to flare up in future.
Why should I buy allergic conjunctivitis treatment online with Treated?
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Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a doctor.
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