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Alternative Names Return to topConjunctivitis - allergic
Definition Return to top
Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the tissue lining the eyelids (conjuctiva) due to a reaction from allergy-causing substances such as pollen and dander.
See also: Conjunctivitis
Causes Return to top
When your eyes are exposed to anything to which you are allergic, histamine is released and the blood vessels in the conjunctiva become swollen (the conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the "white" of the eye). Reddening of the eyes develops quickly and is accompanied by itching and tearing.
Allergies tend to run in families, although no obvious mode of inheritance is recognized. The incidence of allergy is difficult to determine, because many different conditions are often lumped under the term allergy. Keep in mind that rubbing the eyes makes the situation worse.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms may be seasonal and can include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your doctor may look for the following:
Treatment Return to top
The best treatment is avoiding exposure to the cause or allergen. Unfortunately, this is not often practical. Discomfort can be relieved by applying cool compresses to the eyes or taking antihistamines by mouth (many of these are available over-the-counter).
If home-care measures do not help, treatment by the health care provider may be necessary. This may include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Treatment usually relieves the symptoms. However, the condition tends to recur if exposure to the offending agent continues.
Possible Complications Return to top
There are no serious complications; persistent discomfort is common.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you experience allergic conjunctivitis and it is unresponsive to over-the-counter treatment.
Prevention Return to top
Prevention of allergic conjunctivitis is best accomplished by avoiding the allergen, if it is known. In many cases, however, this is impossible since the allergy-causing agents are everywhere nearly all the time.
References Return to top
Bielory L, Friedlaender MH. Allergic conjunctivitis. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2008 Feb;28(1):43-58, vi.Update Date: 8/22/2008 Updated by: Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.