Elizabeth Otero, M.D.

Allergic Conjunctivitis 


Allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction on the surface of the eyes. It is a common condition that occurs when your eyes come in contact with allergy-causing substances (allergens). Pollen, cat dander, dust mites and molds are examples of allergens. The allergens may be in the air, such as pollen. Or they might be on your hands and get into your eyes when you touch your eyes.

When your eyes are repeatedly exposed to allergens, the body reacts and produces antibodies. When allergens in the air contact antibodies on the eye, an allergic reaction begins. The eye releases chemicals, including one called histamine. These chemicals cause the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis.

The symptoms may include:

Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis ...   ► itchy eyes
  ► watering eyes
  ► red eyes
  ► eyelid swelling


Sometimes skin around the eyes is red and scaly. Many people have more severe symptoms in certain seasons such as the spring or fall. Both eyes are usually affected unless just one eye came into contact with the allergen. Dr. Otero or Kristin will ask about your symptoms and check your eyes. Your family medical history may also be helpful.

The first choice for treatment is to avoid the allergy-causing substance(s). Cool compresses (cool moist washcloths) on your closed eyelids several times a day may help relieve the symptoms. If your symptoms persist, you will need to visit our office and have selective allergy skin tests to see what you could be allergic to. Then you may be able to get specific treatment, such as enviromental control and allergy shots, for the things that cause your allergy symptoms if you show allergies.

The symptoms may last as long as the allergen is around, whether it's spring pollen or cat dander in a carpet. If you started having allergic reactions when you were a child and have continued to have them as an adult, you may have them the rest of your life. It is possible, however, to develop an allergy, including allergic conjunctivitis, at any time in life. Sometimes a bacterial eye infection develops in addition to the allergic conjunctivitis. This may happen because bacteria got into your eyes when you scratched or rubbed them.

How can I help prevent allergic conjunctivitis?

Often there is no way to prevent allergic conjunctivitis. You can try to lessen your symptoms by limiting your exposure to allergens. For example, avoid going outside when pollen counts are highest or when the wind is blowing allergens through the air. Use air conditioning rather than opening windows. Call us at Allergy and Asthma Care and ask for an appointment with Dr. Otero or Kristin for evaluation and talk about other ways to help treat and prevent this problem.