Written by ProVision Eyecare

What is an allergy?

An allergy is an exaggerated reaction to substances that do not affect others such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, watery eyes, skin rash and difficulty breathing to name a few. Eye allergies develop when the body’s immune system overreacts to something that is ordinarily harmless to most people. An eye allergic reaction can occur whenever that ‘something’, called an allergen, comes into contact with your eyes – resulting in itchy eyes.

Common symptoms of eye allergies include:

Swelling or puffiness of the eyes
Redness
Itching
Drying
Foreign body sensation
Tearing discharge from the eye
Discomfort wearing contact lenses

What causes an eye allergy?

Outdoor allergens

Allergens that affect the eyes can be caused by airborne allergens such as grass, tree and weed pollen. People who are sensitive to these suffer from seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, the most common eye allergy.

Indoor allergens

Other common eye allergens include pet hair, mould found in moist rooms, pollution and dust mites. These can trigger symptoms for people all year-round.

Irritants

Some people are also triggered by irritants such as perfume, cigarette smoke and car exhaust.

Contact lenses

If you’re a contact lens wearer you might react to the contact lenses themselves, or the proteins in the tear film that binds to the surface of the lens. Talk to our optometrists about hyper-allergenic alternatives.

Medication

Allergic reactions to medications are common and have to be monitored. They are strong and intense reactions and can be caused by penicillin or preservatives in eye drops.

How to stop itchy eyes and treat eye allergies

Prevention

Avoiding triggers is the obvious first step and this starts with making changes in your environment including keeping windows closed during high pollen seasons, wearing eyewear to protect your eyes from pollen, washing your hands after petting animals and using dehumidifiers and mite-proof bedding depending on your particular allergies.

Over-the-counter medication

Oral antihistamines, eye drops and artificial tears are all non-prescription medication that can help to alleviate symptoms.

Prescription medication

Our optometrists can also prescribe eye drops and other prescription medication for more severe symptoms, you do not need a referral to see an optometrist.