Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

Allergy Season and Your Eyes - 13 Apr 2002

Allergy Season and Your Eyes
13 Apr 2002

Allergy Season and Your EyesIt's finally starting to seem like spring and soon the pollen will be here. Did you know that seasonal allergies are the most common health care issue worldwide?

What's going on in our bodies during allergic episodes? I'm going to offer a super-summarized explanation. First, the allergen, such as pollen or dust, comes in contact with our nasal mucosa or in the case of the eyes, the conjunctiva. The allergens then attach to our immune system’s mast cells and "degranulate" them. This causes the release of histamine, which causes the symptoms of itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and running nose.

What measures can be done to be more comfortable? First, we must obviously try to avoid the agents that irritate us. As an example, pollen is at its highest level in the early morning. If possible, dodge that time of day for outdoor activities. A high efficiency air filter in your air conditioning system helps to decrease the pollen in the house. Also a portable HEPA air quality filtering system in the room where you sleep, or are occupying at the time, works wonders. A very "low tech" way to increase eye comfort when they itch badly in the inside corner is to simply put a cold washcloth across the eyes a few times a day.

What about oral antihistamines? These will help not only with the sneezing and runny nose, but also with itchy, sticky eyes and contact lens intolerance. There are many over-the-counter (OTC) preparations, which work well but can cause drowsiness. Claritan, which doesn’t cause that side effect, is now available without a prescription. Prescription (Rx) only antihistamines, such as Allegra, also help to avoid drowsiness. Be sure to consult your physician before starting on any oral antihistamines to ensure there are no contraindications with your health or other medications you may be on.

While oral antihistamines decrease eye itchiness, they will often cause dry eye symptoms. OTC artificial tears lubricate the eye. However, don't use them while wearing contact lenses, use appropriate lens rewetting drops instead, because most tear supplements are not compatible with contacts. These eye drops, such as Genteal, are also a logical first choice for discomfort due to itchiness by helping to wash eye's surface and boost tear volume.

If the eyes still itch, there are OTC and Rx antihistamine eye drops for relief. Some of these also contain decongestant ingredients to "get the red out". Be sure to visit an eyecare professional like my wife or me for diagnosis and appropriate instructions. The drop we prescribe most often is Patanol. It not only blocks released histamine, but it also partially prevents the mast cell from releasing histamine. Because of its duel action and convenient twice-daily schedule, it is our current favorite. Patanol will soon be available in a once a day formula also.

Dr. Mark D. Olmsted