Allergic Conjunctivitis

Pink eye irritates the thin, clear layer covering the eyeball and part of the eyelid (the conjunctiva). A clear, thin membrane called the conjunctiva covers your eyeball and the inside of your eyelids. If something irritates this covering, your eyes may become red and swollen. Your eyes also may itch, hurt or water. This is called conjunctivitis. It is also known as "pink eye." Some causes include allergies, bacteria, viruses, exposure to chemicals or irritants, and contact lens overwear.

When an allergen causes the irritation, the condition is called allergic conjunctivitis. This type of conjunctivitis is not contagious. Some common allergens include: Pollen from trees, grass and ragweed, Animal skin and secretions such as saliva , Perfumes , Cosmetics, Skin medicines, Air pollution, Smoke.

How is allergic conjunctivitis treated?
Several types of eye drops are available to treat allergic conjunctivitis. They can help relieve itchy, watery eyes and may keep symptoms from returning. Eye drops may contain an antihistamine, a decongestant, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or a mast-cell stabilizer. Some drops contain a combination of these. Your doctor will talk with you about which treatment is right for you.

Are there side effects to these eyedrops?
Many eye drops can cause burning and stinging when you first put them in, but this usually goes away in a few minutes. Some of the stronger eyedrops may have a cough-drop like smell or aftertaste which can be unpleasant but is not harmful. It is important to remember that all medicines may potentially cause side effects, so talk with your doctor before using any medicine.

What else can I do to feel better?
It may help to put a cold washcloth or coldpack over your eyes for relief. Lubricating eye drops may also make your eyes feel better. Wash your eyelashes, face, and hair because allergens such as dust, pollen, makeup and chalk tend to collect there. Eyelash shampoo is sold over the counter in pharmacies in bottles or pads (Ocusoft and Sterilid) or can be made by diluting Johnsonís baby shampoo. If you go to bed without washing your hair first, consider changing your pillowcase to a fresh one.

Can I wear my contact lenses?
Itís not a good idea to wear contacts while you have allergic conjunctivitis because the contacts may cause the conjunctivitis to get worse. Instead, wear your glasses until your eyes feel better.