Spring has sprung in East Tennessee, and along with all the beautiful blooms comes the layer of yellow pollen that covers our cars and deck furniture. It’s no secret that seasonal allergies are rampant in our region. In fact, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation ranked the top 100 “most challenging places to live with spring allergies,” placing Knoxville at #20.
For those of us who are sensitive to these allergies, this means a lot of sneezing, runny noses, and congestion. But many of us also experience varying degrees of eye discomfort from allergies. The most common symptoms include:
- Itchiness, especially in the corners of your eyes
- Red, dry or irritated eyes
- Tearing or watery eyes
- Sensitivity to light
Some people also experience swollen eyelids along with these symptoms. It’s also common for people to wonder if they’re suffering from dry eye syndrome or eye allergies as both conditions can have similar symptoms.
It’s difficult to self-diagnose allergies versus dry eye syndrome. An eye doctor is able to diagnose allergies by looking at the conjunctiva, which is the mucous membrane that covers the front of your eye and lines the inside of your eyelids. If your eye doctor sees a lot of papillae, or little bumps in your eyelids, you have eye allergies. Your eye doctor can also diagnose dryness by putting a drop of special yellow dye in your eye. The dye reveals any signs of dry patches.
And yes, it’s possible to have both eye allergies as well as dry eyes, so it’s wise to have an eye doctor examine your eyes for both conditions in order to most accurately treat your symptoms.
How To Reduce Symptoms Of Eye Allergies
Unfortunately, you can’t control outdoor allergens, but there are measures you can take to minimize the effects on your eyes. Here are 5 tips to alleviate eye allergy symptoms:
1) Avoid rubbing your eyes if they are itching or burning. Rubbing your eyes releases more histamine, which will make your allergy symptoms worse. Instead, gently cleanse your eyelids and eyelashes with a warm washcloth after being outdoors and before going to bed to remove any pollen that could cause irritation while you sleep.
2) Wear wraparound sunglasses when you’re outside to reduce how many airborne allergens your eyes are exposed to, and drive with your windows closed.
3) There are a number of over-the-counter eye drops that are formulated to relieve eye allergy symptoms, and your eye doctor can recommend a brand based on your symptoms. If over-the-counter eye allergy drops don’t reduce your symptoms, your eye doctor may recommend prescription eye drops or oral medications.
4) Contact lenses can become problematic during allergy season. Airborne allergens can accumulate on the surface of contact lenses, so be sure to remove and thoroughly clean them daily. You may want to talk to your eye doctor about switching to daily disposable contact lenses, or you may opt to wear your eyeglasses more during allergy season.
5) You might want to follow a website such as accuweather.com so that you’ll be aware of the days that the pollen count is high. On those days, try to stay indoors as much as possible. Make sure you’re using high-quality allergen-trapping filters for your air-conditioning system, and replace the filters as instructed by the manufacturer.
In some cases, eye allergies can play a role in developing conjunctivitis (pink eye) or other eye infections, so if you’ve been trying to manage symptoms but are aren’t having any success, it’s a good idea to have your eyes checked to rule out an infection.
If you have red, itchy, watery eyes and wonder if allergies are to blame, talk to one of our doctors about the symptoms you’re experiencing. At Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical in Knoxville, our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each person who walks through our door. If you’d like to consult with an optometrist or want to schedule an eye exam, call us at (865) 246-1500 or contact us to schedule an appointment.