Did you know that the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. is allergies? One of the most common health issues that affect children in the U.S., allergies can cause symptoms that range from uncomfortable to severe.
If you are suffering from allergies and red eyes or eyes that are watery or itchy, you might be wondering what has caused these unpleasant symptoms.
In order to understand the relationship between allergies and eyes, we’ll need to first take a look at what allergies are and why they occur. Then we will take a closer look at allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergies), which affects millions of Americans every year.
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the way our immune systems respond to allergens to create the uncomfortable symptoms we experience as allergies.
What Are Allergies?
Allergens are foreign substances that aren’t typically harmful to your body. When you experience allergies, the symptoms you experience are the result of your body’s immune system responding to that foreign substance.
Your immune system is tasked with fighting harmful pathogens and keeping you healthy. The way it does this is by attacking any substances that could be dangerous to your body. The form of attack might involve sneezing, inflammation, or a long list of other symptoms.
It is common for people’s immune systems to adjust to their environment. For example, many people’s immune systems would encounter something like pollen and understand that it doesn’t pose a threat. However, people who have pollen allergies have immune systems that perceive pollen as a dangerous foreign substance.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergies?
There are a number of different types of allergies, and allergies can range from mild to severe. A combination of these and other factors will impact the symptoms you experience.
A food allergy is when your immune system reacts in an abnormal way to something you ingest. Some of the symptoms that might result from a reaction to a type of food include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Stomach Cramps
If a person is having a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), they might experience:
- Swelling of the tongue, lips, or throat
- Difficulty Breathing, including wheezing
- Hives (a blotchy, itchy, and raised rash)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Faintness or dizziness
As you can see, the symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.
When you have spring allergies, summer allergies, or other seasonal allergies, it’s often referred to as Hay Fever. About 8% of the adult population of the US suffers from this condition.
Some of the symptoms of hay fever include:
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Ear congestion
- Itchy throat, sinuses, or ear canals
- Postnasal drainage
It is common for people who have hay fever to also suffer from asthma. Asthma attacks can be triggered by hay fever if you have both of these conditions.
When a person has severe allergies, anaphylaxis can occur when they are exposed to their allergen. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening if it isn’t treated right away.
Allergies and Eyes: What Are Eye Allergies?
When you have eye allergies (also known as allergic conjunctivitis), your immune system is responding adversely to an irritating substance (allergen). Common allergens that cause eye allergies might include smoke, dust, or pollen.
When a foreign substance comes in contact with your eyes, your immune system might create chemicals in order to fight this allergen. This can leave you with red, itchy, and watery eyes.
People who suffer from eye allergies might experience symptoms such as:
- Watery eyes
- Burning or itchy eyes
- Pink or red eyes
- Puffy or swollen eyelids, particularly first thing in the morning
- Scaling around he eyes
Eye allergies might impact both of your eyes or just one of them. In some instances, these eye symptoms might also be accompanied by sneezing, congestion, or a runny nose.
What Causes Eye Allergies?
There are a number of common allergen in the air that can cause eye allergies. These include:
When the eyes come in contact with an allergen, histamine is released. This is what leads to the uncomfortable symptoms you experience when you suffer from eye allergies.
While you can have an eye allergy any time of the year, they are particularly common in the spring, summer, and fall. Eye allergy symptoms can also result from food allergies.
Are you wondering whether you should get an annual eye exam? Check out these seven important reasons why you should have one every year.
Pink Eye Vs. Allergies: What’s the Difference?
If your eyes are pink or red, itchy, and watery, you might be wondering whether you have pink eye or allergies. Both allergies and pink eye have similar symptoms but they are not the same condition.
While eye allergies result from an adverse immune reaction, pink eye can result from:
- Eye allergies
- Bacterial infections
- Contact lenses
A thick discharge typically builds up on the eye overnight when you have pink eye that is triggered by a virus or bacterial infection. If you have this condition, it is highly contagious. On the other hand, eye allergies aren’t contagious.
Protecting Your Eyes Is Essential
One of your most important senses is your eyesight. 80% of the sensory data that we perceive comes through our sight. For this reason, it’s particularly disturbing when there is something compromising the health of our eyes.
Learning the relationship between allergies and eyes can help you and your health care provider understand the best treatment options for you. As explained in this article, your eyes can have an allergic reaction to an allergen, or eye symptoms can occur in the face of another type of allergy.
One important thing you can do for your eye health and vision is to get an annual eye exam. If it’s time for you to have your eyes looked at by an optician, contact us today!