Eye drops pro­vide re­lief for eyes swollen by al­ler­gies

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­thony Ko­maroff AskDr.K

I have al­ler­gies, and my eyes are af­fected the most. They’re puffy, red and itchy. What can I do?

Pol­lens, an­i­mal dan­der, dust mites and mold: The same al­ler­gens that cause sneez­ing and an itchy nose and throat can trig­ger al­lergy symp­toms that af­fect your eyes, too. If your eyes are red and itchy, you may also have tear­ing, mu­cous dis­charge and swelling of your con­junc­tiva (the in­side of your eye­lid). This con­stel­la­tion of symp­toms is known as al­ler­gic con­junc­tivi­tis. It can be un­com­fort­able, but it is not a threat to vi­sion.

To help im­prove your symp­toms, try to avoid what­ever trig­gers your al­ler­gies. If you are al­ler­gic to cats, avoid them, or at least don’t touch your eyes when near one. If pollen is your neme­sis, keep your win­dows closed. And keep an air pu­ri­fier or air con­di­tioner go­ing in pollen sea­son.

A sim­ple but ef­fec­tive rem­edy is to place a cool, wet wash­cloth over your eyes. Also, use ar­ti­fi­cial tears (avail­able with­out pre­scrip­tion) fre­quently. They’ll give you some re­lief and help wash away al­ler­gens.

Try not to rub your eyes. Do­ing so causes mast cells, which play a key role in al­ler­gic re­ac­tions, to re­lease in­flam­ma­tion-caus­ing chem­i­cals into the eye. This makes symp­toms worse.

If your symp­toms ap­pear oc­ca­sion­ally, try one of the newer gen­er­a­tion of an­ti­his­tamines you can take by mouth. An­ti­his­tamines block the ac­tion of his­tamine, a ma­jor cause of itchy eyes. Over-the­counter op­tions in­clude lo­rata­dine (Clar­itin), ce­t­i­rizine (Zyrtec) and fex­ofe­na­dine (Al­le­gra). Oth­ers are avail­able by pre­scrip­tion.

An­other op­tion is eye drops that con­tain mast cell sta­bi­liz­ers, which limit re­lease of the in­flam­ma­tion-caus­ing chem­i­cals. Dur­ing an al­lergy at­tack, eye drops work faster than pills taken by mouth.

Eye drops that con­tain an­ti­his­tamines and de­con­ges­tants (medicines that cause small blood ves­sels to nar­row) are avail­able over the counter. They can pro­vide quick re­lief, par­tic­u­larly of the red­ness in the eye. But don’t use these med­i­ca­tions for more than a week or two, as they can cause ex­ces­sive nar­row­ing of the blood ves­sels in your eye. And be pre­pared for a lit­tle red­ness to re­turn af­ter you’ve stopped us­ing them.

If your symp­toms per­sist, try eye drops that com­bine a mast cell sta­bi­lizer and an an­ti­his­tamine. These drugs are avail­able over the counter and by pre­scrip­tion.

If you use mul­ti­ple types of eye drops, such as drops con­tain­ing an an­ti­his­tamine and ar­ti­fi­cial tears, don’t put both drops in your eye at the same time. Wait about five min­utes be­tween putting the two types of drops in your eye. Oth­er­wise, the sec­ond type you put in your eye may wash away the ef­fects of the first type.

If your symp­toms are se­vere and don’t im­prove with other med­i­ca­tions, ask your doc­tor about pre­scrip­tion eye drops that con­tain cor­ti­cos­teroids. These med­i­ca­tions help con­trol in­flam­ma­tion, but they should only be used un­der the guid­ance of an eye spe­cial­ist (oph­thal­mol­o­gist). With­out proper mon­i­tor­ing, cor­ti­cos­teroid eye drops can cause glau­coma, cataracts or other se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions.

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