Springtime is allergy time!
As spring approaches most of us will appreciate the beautiful flowers, blooming trees, the singing birds, and the bees. Unfortunately some of you will dread the sneezing, coughing, and the watery, swollen, and itchy eyes associated with Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAC).
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC), is the condition that many patients often suffer from without knowing they have it. Unfortunately, we often do the wrong things out of habit.
Here are some of the more common things we shouldn't do:
- The biggest "no-no" is rubbing our eyes. This is seemingly harmless and to some may provide some instant relief but you will pay for it later. Rubbing your eyes releases more histamines, thus increasing the itch, swelling, and increasing your discomfort. I know, easier said than done. Cold compresses are a better alternative than rubbing your eyes.
- Many of you will likely sleep with your windows open at night during the Spring and Summer months to take advantage of the cooler evenings. Unfortunately the open windows and the cool morning air will introduce more antigens, (the stuff your allergic too), into the house. The colder air will concentrate the antigens at a level lower to the ground, thus making allergy sufferers more miserable. Also if you have dry eyes, that condition will make your SAC worse by concentrating the environmental antigens, in your tear film. Thus best to keep your eyes lubricated.
- Keeping your dirty old contact lenses way too long. The older your contact lenses are the more likely they will have protein and lipid build up on the surface. The build up will provide another irritant to you, making your allergic conjunctivitis worse. Thus the rationale for your eye doctor's constant nagging of cleaning and changing your disposable contacts as scheduled. Also, it might be more comfortable and provide you better vision to wear your glasses when your allergies are at their peak.
- Not using artificial tears (lubricating drops for dry eyes) enough. If your eyes are dry it concentrates the antigens which trigger the SAC. Keeping the eyes lubricated will help dilute the antigens and can often help alleviate the symptoms.
- You can speak to your optometrist for more tips.
If you don't receive relief from cold compresses, closing the windows at night, or artificial tears, then we have other options. Fortunately in California, if you have a therapeutically certified optometrist, they can prescribe a newer generation medication to alleviate your SAC. Typically it does require an office visit to confirm the diagnosis.
When their insurance allows, I personally like to treat my patients with the relatively newer class of allergy medications that combine an antihistamine with a mast cell stabilizer. They provide quicker relief than many of the typical over the counter remedies and only require a once a day dosage to keep things simple. Examples of this newer class of medications include Pataday, Lastacaft, and the latest medication, Pazeo. I have found all of them to be very effective, with very few adverse reactions and I feel they are immensely better than anything over the counter, like Visine.
In more severe and rare cases I will sometimes add a topical ophthalmic steroid as well. Fortunately those cases are rare but a needed option in some cases. In any case, the best thing to do is visit your eye doctor when symptoms arise. Over the years I have seen patients that mistakenly believe they have an allergic conjunctivitis when in reality it is a bacterial conjunctivitis or a dry eye. Thus an office visit is typically needed to delineate between conditions. Again, please consult your optometrist for more tips.