Eye allergies occur when your body's immune system reacts inappropriately to an otherwise harmless foreign substance, called an allergen. There are several kinds of eye allergies. Some of them are seasonal and some are not.
Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a seasonal conjunctivitis that generally occurs in children and young adults. Atopic keratoconjunctivitis is similar to vernal keratoconjunctivitis but is not seasonal and generally occurs in older patients. Left untreated, it can cause conjunctival and corneal scarring. Hay fever conjunctivitis or seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is a sudden, intense, short-lived response to an airborne allergen, such as dust, mold, pollen or animal dander.
Your eyes can also have an allergic response to a medication. An IgE mediated (anaphylactoid) reaction causes swelling and hives in response to penicillin and some other medications. A toxic (irritative papillary) reaction, which results in chronic red eye, can be a response to antiviral or antibiotic drops and some preservatives. Allergic contact reactions come on slowly and gradually and can be caused by topical medications. You can also have an allergic reaction to contact lenses.
Symptoms of eye allergies include irritation, redness, swelling, blurred vision, mucous secretion, itching, tearing and the sensation of a foreign body in your eye. If you have any of the symptoms, see your eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust and perfume can exacerbate allergy symptoms, so try to stay away from these.
Artificial tears can be helpful for alleviating eye allergy symptoms, as can cold compresses and over-the-counter antihistamines. Your doctor may also prescribe topical steroids or mast cell stabilizers. If you are allergic to a medication you will have to discontinue use. If you are having a reaction to contact lenses, make sure you are cleaning them properly and consider changing your cleaning regimen. You may have to change to a different kind of lenses. Your doctor can help you decide the best course of treatment.