Itching and rubbing of eyes is a common problem presenting to eye specialist. This complaint at times may be very severe affecting the routine life activities as well. This is due to condition called allergic conjunctivitis.
Who is most susceptible?
Allergic conjunctivitis is a disease entity commonly seen in young children and adults. This is more commonly seen in boys in the age group of 12-16 years. Conjunctiva is the membrane that lines the eyelid and white portion of the eyes. This contains large number of cells from immune system which release chemicals in response to variety of stimuli such as air, pollens, dust etc. These chemicals cause immediate and late effects such as itching, redness, formation of papillae inside the eyes.
This allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal, affecting more in spring and early summer and sometimes once a year. Mainly aggravated on exposure to dry and windy climate. Another type of allergic conjunctivitis is vernal type seen in young adults with eczema, asthma or other allergic conditions. Giant papillary conjunctivitis occurs in contact lens wearers and presents with similar complaints.
Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis
Allergic conjunctivitis typically starts with intense itching, burning sensations, foreign body sensation in eyes. Eyes may become red and swollen. Sometimes may have watery discharge from eyes. In severe form ulcer may develop in eyes and this is severe form of allergic conjunctivitis. Patients may have associated allergic symptoms such as running nose, skin allergy.
Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are generally mild to moderate. Measure like cold compression and using topical lubricants may help flush out allergens and thus reduce symptoms. In some cases, symptoms may be severe. Severe rubbing of eyes may sometimes lead to change in curvature of cornea leading to condition called keratoconus.
Treatment for itchy eyes
Primary goal of treatment is to avoid allergens, promote general hygiene, change of environment to avoid allergens, treatment of systemic allergic problems. Many treatment options are available for allergic conjunctivitis. Anti-histamine eye drops are effective but cannot be used for long term due to rebound redness.
Other class of eye drops are vasoconstrictors and mast cell stabilizers which are fast acting and can be used for long term. In severe cases, steroid eye drops are used. This is to be used under supervision as prolonged usage may cause cataract, glaucoma and other side effects.
In severe cases, immune modulators are also used and many advances are in this category of treatment.
Treatment of allergic conjunctivitis involves mainly avoidance of allergens along with using eye drops. At times it may be so severe that patient may even change the place of living for the recovery from allergy. Judicious use of eye drops is must or else may lead to many complications because of over usage of eye drops.