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Asthma and Allergic Conjunctivitis

Introduction

  • Conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye conditions.
  • It is often called “red eye”. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and helps keep your eyelid and eyeball moist.
  • Red eye caused by allergens is called allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. It cannot be transferred from one person to another.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis is common in people who have other signs of allergic disease such as hay fever, asthma and eczema.
  • The cause of allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction of the body’s immune system to an allergen.
  • The most common allergens that cause conjunctivitis are:
    • Pollen from trees, grass and ragweed
    • Animal skin and secretion such as saliva
    • Perfumes and cosmetics
    • Skin medicines
    • Air pollution
    • Smoke, dust mites, eye drops
  • It is important to find out whether your red eye is caused by allergies or infection because each condition has different treatment.

Symptoms & Signs

  • Typical symptoms and signs of allergic conjunctivitis include :
    • Redness of both eyes
    • Itching and burning of both the eye and surrounding tissues
    • Watery discharge, often accompanied by acute discomfort in bright sunlight (photophobia)
    • The conjunctiva itself may become very swollen and look light purple and this may interfere  with clarity of vision
  • Eyelids may also be affected by an allergic reaction, causing the loose tissue of the lid to become swollen with subsequent drooping of the eyelid.
  • Common Types and Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis
Allergic Viral Bacterial
Primary Complaints Itching, Often Severe Burning, Irritation, Discomfort Irritation
Tearing Moderate Profuse Moderate
Discharge Minimal Pinkish or Milky Minimal Profuse, Whitish Purulent
Redness Generalized Generalized Generalized
Other Findings Nasal &/or Chest Symptoms Occasional Sore Throat & Fever Occasional Lid Swelling

 Complications

  • In cases of severe swelling, the lids cannot open and the gap between the upper and lower lids becomes slit like.
  • It is important to refer urgently to an eye specialist if have blurred vision or corneal haze.
  • May be associated with asthmatic attack due to allergen.

Treatment 

  • Treatment depends on severity and cause of symptoms.
  • Identifying and removing the cause of allergic conjunctivitis. If possible the allergic cause has been confirmed from allergy testing.
  • It is also important to exclude the presence of a foreign body
  • Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are generally mild to moderate and respond to bathing eyes with cold water, ice packs and cold water compression.
  • If severe symptoms, please see doctor and require medication such as :
    1. topical medications ( eye drops)
    2. oral antihistamines( tablets)
    3. allergen immunotherapy for specific allergens – this may benefit people with persistent, severe allergic conjunctivitis.

Prevention 

  • Allergic conjunctivitis may disappear completely, either when the allergy is treated with antihistamines, or when the allergen is removed.
  • The best defense against allergic conjunctivitis is to simply avoid contact with substances that trigger your allergies.
  • Other tips include:
    • Don’t touch or rub your eye(s)
    • Wash hands often with soap and water
    • Wash your bed linens, pillowcases with hot water and detergent to reduce allergens
    • Avoid wearing eye makeup
    • Do not share eye makeup
    • Never use other’s contact lenses
Last Reviewed :  21 July 2016
Writer :  Dr. Sanidah bt. Md. Ali
Accreditor :  Dr. Ho Bee Kiau