Column: ‘Tis the allergy season

Commentary by Tammy Wittmann 

Allergy season has hit.  If you are anything like me, this time of year can really be frustrating.  One of the main areas that are affected is our eyes.  Itchy, red, watery eyes are the telltale signs of ocular allergies but can sometimes be symptoms of other ocular infections.  It’s important to have your eyes checked by your eye doctor if you are having these symptoms to rule out more serious infections.  Also, keep in mind that watery eyes alone are not necessarily allergy eyes. And you can also have allergic conjunctivitis and not experience any other allergy symptoms like sneezing and rhinitis (hay fever).

It’s important to note that the oral medications you may be taking for your systemic symptoms do little to nothing for ocular allergies.  Some of the prescription nasal sprays will help but the most effective treatment for ocular allergies is an eye drop.  There are some over-the-counter drops that work well, but you want to steer clear of any of the “get the red out” drops.  Also, stay away from generics in this case as well.   Generics can have more preservative in them because they are not regulated by the FDA.  More preservatives mean less active ingredient and more irritation for the ocular tissues.   The most effective treatments however are prescription eye drops.

Contact lens wearers may not realize they have ocular allergies but have symptoms such as decreased contact lens comfort and shorter wearing time.  Also, contact lenses may have more deposits on them causing temporary decreased vision.  Some contact lens wearers have to switch to a daily disposable lens during allergy season as well.

It is always best to have any ocular problem evaluated by your eye doctor to differentiate between allergic, viral, or bacterial conjunctivitis as well as dry eye, since the treatments for each vary.

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