Red, Itchy, Dry Eyes? It’s that time of the year again when eyes begin to itch, burn, tear up and feel dry. Most likely it’s related to allergic conjunctivitis. The overall prevalence of allergic conjunctivitis has been increasing since the 1980’s with over 20% of the population being affected. Seasonal allergy is the most common allergy affecting the eyes. The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis may also begin earlier in the year as increasing temperatures have led to earlier spring time pollination. Allergic conjunctivitis is a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction whereby an allergen comes in contact with the eye and results in an inflammatory cascade of mast cell degranulation and histamine and cytokine release. This will lead to dilation of the blood vessels and itching. The inflammatory process also effects the production of the tear film and can result in the symptoms of dry eyes.Normal oral allergy medications can help with some symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, but they can also cause or worsen the symptoms of dry eye. Typically we treat allergic conjunctivitis with several classes of drops including preservative free tears to dilute out the allergens and stronger agents such as mast cell stablizers, anti-histamines, and steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drops. Some over-the- counter agents may be helpful, but may contain an ingredient that causes constriction of blood vessels in the eyes to reduce redness. Unfortunately, when these drops wear off, it causes a rebound vasodilation of the blood vessels and worsening redness.If you suffer from dry eyes, tearing, redness, itching, burning or foreign body sensation in the eyes, it may be time to check in with your ophthalmologist to see if you have allergic conjunctivitis or other causes of these symptoms.
Dr. Patel is currently Board Certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and an active member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, the Northern Virginia Academy of Ophthalmology and the Virginia Society of Ophthalmology. She is currently seeing patients in the Vienna, VA area with general ophthalmic conditions, corneal disease, cosmetic needs, dry eye and laser vision correction candidates.