If your eyes are itchy, red, or irritated, you may be suffering from ocular allergies. Also referred to as allergic conjunctivitis, eye allergies affect millions of Americans. Nasal allergies are generally treated but ocular allergies are a different story. Many people ignore red, itchy eyes because they’re unsure of how to treat them. This continued irritation is not just uncomfortable but can also progress into eye infections.
Here are five common misconceptions about ocular allergies and the facts about each one. The best news: relief is on the way!
Myth 1: Eye allergies are seasonal.
There are several different forms of allergic conjunctivitis, so it’s possible to suffer year-round with allergies. For example, people with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) have symptoms that peak in the spring and fall. Those with perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC) tend to have milder symptoms all year long. Both SAC and PAC have similar symptoms and are treated in the same way.
Myth 2: Ocular allergies are only common in some parts of the U.S.
It may appear that allergic conjunctivitis would be most common in areas where the trees, grasses, and flowers bloom, but this isn’t the case. Every region in the U.S. has different allergens that affect residents, even the desert. Eye allergies can be caused by pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander, cockroaches, and other environmental allergens.
Myth 3: It’s difficult to treat allergic conjunctivitis.
Numerous treatment options are available for relieving the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. They include artificial tears, decongestant eye drops, and oral antihistamines. Unfortunately, eye drops and antihistamines can make things worse. If the symptoms persist, talk to your eye doctor about the use of corticosteroid eye drops, antihistamine eye drops, or allergy shots.
Myth 4: The main symptom of ocular allergies is itching.
Seasonal allergies are often triggered by pollen, which causes the itching. But, there are other symptoms to be aware of such as redness, burning, and discharge. People who suffer with chronic SAC or PAC may also have dark circles under their eyes called shiners as well as swollen eyelids and light sensitivity.
Myth 5: Itchy eyes are always a sign of allergies.
One more misconception to address is the relationship between itchy eyes and allergies. Many people assume that scratchy eyes are always related to allergies, but this isn’t true. Itchy eyes can be caused by dry eye as well. The best way to determine if your discomfort is from allergies or dry eye syndrome is by the presence of other symptoms. If your eyes are watering, allergies are usually to blame. If they’re burning, it’s typically dry eye.
Any prolonged eye irritation should be looked at by your eye specialist. It’s important to rule out other possible conditions and find an effective treatment for your specific symptoms.