Allergic eye disease occurs in response to an allergen, bacteria, virus or chemical, causing inflammation of the clear lining of the eye (conjunctiva).
It can be caused by pollen, dust mites, pets or contact lenses. Some people suffer only during the hay fever season (seasonal conjunctivitis) or all year round (perennial conjunctivitis). Severe allergic eye disease may develop in children (vernal conjunctivitis) and persist in adulthood (atopic conjunctivitis) frequently in conjunction with eczema.
The first thing to do is to avoid or minimise exposure to the allergen where possible, for example by avoiding pets, frequent vacuuming, reducing or stopping the use of contact lenses.
Over the counter treatments such as antihistamine tablets and anti-allergy eye drops may help for short term relief. However, long term use of antihistamine tablets can result in dry eyes so it’s useful to use regular tear supplements which will also help to wash away any allergens. Cold compresses with a flannel may also help and it is important to avoid rubbing your eyes.
If your condition is severe then you may require steroid drops or injections and other anti-inflammatory medications.
Most cases are not sight-threatening. Vernal and atopic conjunctivitis on the other hand, can lead to scarring of the cornea and infections.