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Allergic conjunctivitis (Latin name)

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

If you are allergic to pollen, house-dust mite, cats or other things, you can have symptoms affecting the eyes as well as symptoms affecting the airways. The intensity of the symptoms may depend on the seasons. Allergy of pollen from trees (birch, hazel, alder) is worst during April and May, while people allergic to pollen from grass have trouble during June and July – this is true for the Northern hemisphere. People allergic to house-dust mites can have symptoms all year round, while allergy of dog or cat appears after direct and sometimes indirect contact with the animals.

Allergy occurs frequently and many have symptoms that affect the eyes. It is estimated that 20-25 % of the adult population has allergy affecting the eyes. Usually, it is younger persons – less than 30 years old – who are struck, while people from older age groups may also be bothered. Frequently, the illness occurs in families with allergic illnesses (hay fever, asthma, eczema). If your parents or siblings have hay fever or asthma, the risk of developing allergy affecting the eyes is bigger.

It is always both eyes that are affected. Allergy in the eyes appears first and foremost by itching in the eyes. Red eyes and lacrimation together with swollen eyelids also occur. Some experience sensitivity to light and are bothered by sunlight. Most people with allergy affecting the eyes are also affected in the upper airways by fits of sneezing, itching and a running nose.

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Further reading on Frequent signs

What can you do?

If you know what you are allergic to, you should avoid it. In the case of sudden severe allergy, it can soothe the eyes to wash with sterile salt water or take a shower to wash e.g. pollen off. Avoid hanging your clothes to dry outside during pollen season, if you are allergic to pollen. At the pharmacy you can buy medication to soothe the symptoms in the form of antihistamines (tablets).

What can your optician do?

The optician refers you to the ophthalmologist. The optician can evaluate whether your contact lenses function optimally.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If you want to know what you are allergic to, a doctor can perform some tests (skin test or blood sample). If ordinary medication, bought over the counter, does not soothe your nuisances sufficiently, the doctor can prescribe eye drops (antihistamines) or nasal spray (corticosteroid). If you have outspoken symptoms, the doctor can refer you to a specialist in allergy with regard to a vaccination against allergy.

Contact the doctor immediately

The ophthalmologist can evaluate the more complicated cases, guide and treat. In severe cases, it can be necessary to treat with eye drops of corticosteroid for a short period.