Eyes may be the window to our soul, but it's not a very effective portal if you can't see inside. Allergic reactions hit people in different ways, but most allergy sufferers have probably been subject to itchy, watery eyes at one time or another.
Pet allergies, ragweed, pollen, dust mites -- you name it. Most of these allergens cause symptoms that affect the head. You know the feeling: Your throat and chin itch, your nose becomes puffy, congested and red, and your eyes start itching, watering and even puffing up at times. If you're one of the roughly 60 million Americans who suffer regularly from allergies and want to know more, read on for five facts about your allergic eyes.
Allergies and Your Immune System
Eye allergies, just like all allergies, occur when your immune system overreacts to allergens that you come into contact with. In the case of your eyes, allergens like grass, weeds, trees, pet dander, dust mites and mold can all go airborne and hit your peepers.
Once they come into contact with your eyes, they react defensively to the invasion and mast cells release a chemical called histamine. Once this happens, the blood vessels swell up and there goes the puffy, itchy, watery eyes. Thanks a lot, over-reactive immune system!
Sometimes, non-allergic substances can either cause allergylike reactions in the eyes, or make matters worse if you're already suffering from an allergic reaction. Cigarette smoke is a big one, which is why more and more places are opting to go smoke-free. Perfume is another strong airborne substance that can exacerbate the allergic reactions with your eyes. Certain cosmetics can also be eye irritants, and if you've ever gotten watery, itchy eyes while sitting in traffic, it could be because of diesel exhaust in the air, another common non-allergic pain in the eyes.
Your Eyesight Should be Fine
Even though you do lots of eye rubbing when you have an allergic reaction happening, you probably aren't doing anything to actually harm your eyesight. Even so, try to go easy on your eyes -- they're a sensitive organ that you shouldn't really manhandle.
If you have the skin condition eczema, then there are rare instances that your eyesight could be affected in the long-term because of consistent inflammation. But regular allergy sufferers don't need to worry about messing up on the eye chart any time soon.
It's More Common Than You Think
If you suffer from eye allergies, then you're not alone. Also called ocular allergies or allergic conjunctivitis, they're much more common than many people might realize. According to studies, one in every five Americans suffers from some kind of eye-related allergy. That means that you're in good company if your eyes are periodically itchy, puffy, red and watery.
If you're aware of your particular triggers, try to avoid them. If you've never had allergies before, and you find that your eyes are red and watery, then you might want to see a doctor. Chances are it's an unusual allergic reaction, but it could also be an infection in the making.
There Are Two Types of Eye Allergies
If you suffer from eye allergies, chances are they're worse at certain times of the year. Things that are constant in your life, like dust mites, pet dander and feathers in your bedding, are the most likely culprits of your perennial allergies. These are the allergens that will affect you to some degree all year long.
Then, there are seasonal allergies. These occur at certain times of the year when specific plants and weeds grow that aggravate your particular allergy. This is typically spring through fall for most allergy sufferers. Not only are more plants, grasses and weeds growing, but you're outside more and vulnerable to exposure.
Sometimes adults suddenly have a severe reaction to something they weren't allergic to before. Learn why adult-onset allergies can crop up so quickly.
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