What Are Eye Allergies?
Often passed down from family members, eye allergies occur for a myriad of reasons. When an allergic eye reaction takes place, it’s simply your eye’s way of letting you know that they're sensing something they think to be harmful, even if it isn't. Substances that cause this type of response are known as allergens.
Additionally, allergy eyes can generate other problems, such as conjunctivitis (AKA pink eye) and asthma. A condition known as rhinoconjunctivitis occurs when both nasal and eye allergies combine.
About 30%-50% of all U.S. residents have some type of allergy symptom, and about 75% of those symptoms affect the eyes (www.allaboutallergies.com).
Your eyes are one of the most sensitive and vulnerable organs you have. Ocular allergies, or allergies in the eye, are no different than allergies that affect your sinuses, nose or lungs.
Eye allergies happen when airborne allergens and other particles (i.e., dust) land directly on the surface of your eye, causing irritation and redness. Then, your body overreacts to the substance and floods the eyes with tears and mucus.
The Allergic Response
When harmless pollen an allergen is incorrectly perceived by your immune system to be something dangerous, your system overacts. Depending on your genetic response, your body will react to some allergens, and less or not at all to others.
Most people will experience itchy eyes. It is the most common symptom of allergy eyes. It can affect both of your eyes or sometimes, one eye may be more intensely affected than the other.
When an allergen comes into contact with your eyes, your body releases histamines ― a chemical produced in reaction to a substance that the immune system can’t tolerate. Special cells called mast cells make histamines. These cells are present throughout the body, but are highly concentrated in the eyes. This leads to itching, redness, and watery eyes.
Symptoms of Eye Allergies:
Swelling and puffiness of the eyelids
The feeling as if something is caught in your eye
Location of allergy symptoms depends somewhat on where the allergen has come into contact with your body.