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Allergies (Red, Itchy, Burning Eyes?)


If you are unsure of the cause of your eye allergies, or if you would like guidance in properly treating and managing them, we recommend seeing our Optometrist for a consultation. An accurate diagnosis is important to maintaining your overall ocular health, as eye allergies share symptoms similar to other eye conditions

What Causes Eye Allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis)?

When your body’s immune system reacts to an substance that is normally harmless, it is known as an allergy. When that particular allergen (pet dander, grass, hay, etc) comes in contact with your eyes, your body responds accordingly. Cells in your eyes, called mast cells, release histamine to combat the allergens your immune system has deemed harmful. The result is itchy, irritated, red eyes. Unlike viral or bacterial conjunctivitis1, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.

There are a number of possible causes for your eye allergies. They may include:

  • Outdoor Allergens – Smoke, grass, pollen, weeds, hay
  • Indoor Allergens – Pet dander, dust, mold, feather bedding
  • Irritants – Perfume, cosmetics, vehicle exhaust
  • Other allergens that don’t come in direct contact with your eyes, such as insect bites/stings or certain types of food

What Are The Symptoms of Eye Allergies?

The cause of your allergies will dictate which symptoms you experience. You may notice a combination of the following:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning sensation
  • Excessive tearing
  • Irritated, red eyes
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Mucous discharge
  • Contact lens discomfort

You may also suffer from nasal allergies and experience an itchy, stuffy nose and sneezing.

How Are Eye Allergies Treated?

The cause of your allergies will determine the best course for managing and treating your symptoms. Our Optometrist can assess your overall eye health during an eye exam2 to determine the cause of your allergies, and to make sure there are no other underlying issues.

There are a number of adjustments you can make to your lifestyle, as well as medications, to help alleviate the discomfort you experience with your eye allergies.

Managing Your Eye Allergies

  • Do not rub your eyes. Relief will be brief and this will further aggravate your symptoms
  • Avoid using window fans, as they can draw allergens into your home (like pollen or mold)
  • Monitor the pollen report for the Denver area, and stay indoors when pollen counts are at their peak
  • Wear sunglasses or glasses to minimize the amount of allergens coming into contact with your eyes
  • Keep your windows closed at home and in the car
  • Replace the filters in your furnace and air conditioner monthly during their peak seasons, when seasonal allergy peaks
  • Dust weekly (or more) with a damp cloth to reduce the amount of dust in your home
  • Wash your bedding often

Treating Your Eye Allergies

  • Over the Counter or Prescribed Medications: Antihistamine eye drops, artificial tears, decongestant eye drops, ointments, oral antihistamines

Immunotherapy – Allergy shots or oral medication