Seasonal allergies affect about 40 million Americans and about 30 million people wear contact lenses. If you fall into both categories then you need allergy eye drops for contacts to avoid the itching and corneal plastic effects.
Dr. Steven Stetson, medical director of Diamond Vision, a vision and vision care laser center in Manhattan, has tips to protect the eyes of those who suffer from seasonal allergies and wear contact lenses.
1. Stop rubbing your eyes
Rubbing the eyes may ease in the short term, but “rubbing actually promotes the release of histamine,” said Dr. Stetson. Histamines are the chemicals that immune cells produce to fight off invaders, such as germs and bacteria.
Histamines are the ones that cause allergy symptoms in the first place, so rubbing the eyes is calling more troops to the murky battlefield, that is, they create more inflammation.
2. Protect yourself
“If you know you suffer from pollen allergies, get out as little as possible during the pollen season,” said Dr. Stetson. Of course, many of us can not afford to become hermits for weeks, but the use of the correct glasses and eye drops can help to survive outside.
3. Wear wraparound sunglasses
No, you do not need to start wearing the huge side-protection goggles your grandmother used; Today more elegant versions are made. In addition to blocking UV radiation, they have additional side protection that help protect your eyes from the irritating elements of the air. Make the wraparound glasses your accessory in the allergy season and never leave home without it.
4. Clean the house
Dr. Stetson recommends that while you are trapped inside the house, waiting for your new sunglasses to arrive, clean the house thoroughly. Include a damp cloth on the floor to eradicate pet dander that causes allergies, and mold and dust mites that are the biggest allergy threats in your home.
Be sure to clean tall horizontal surfaces, such as the top of shelves and door frames, as they are dust colonies. If your allergy symptoms get worse in the morning, you may have a problem with dust mites, said Dr. Stetson.
Consider throwing away your pillow and getting a new one every year, with anti allergic cover. If your house is damp, consider investing in a dehumidifier that removes moisture that causes mold to grow.
5. Refrigerate artificial tears
The cooler temperature helps relieve the eyes, said Dr. Stetson. If you take oral medications for allergies, such as Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin, which are all antihistamines, can dry out your eyes. As part of the allergy treatment plan, it is recommended to keep the artificial tears with you at all times, which means you can not always refrigerate them. Using tears 3-4 times a day can really help to counteract the dryness caused by the medication.
6. Use artificial tears without preservatives
Dr. Stetson prefers artificial tears without preservatives, since a small percentage of patients present adverse reactions to these components, especially those that are based on detergents, such as benzalkonium chloride (BAK).
“The chronic use of tears based on BAK and other eye medications, such as glaucoma drops, is associated with damage to the cornea epithelium [superficial cell layer] and increased inflammation,” wrote Dr. Stetson in an email.
Safer artificial tears include preservatives based on oxidation (purite and sodium perborate), which are inactivated when exposed to the surface of the eye. Brands such as Blink Tears, Genteal, and Refresh Optive, have preservatives based on oxidation.
7. Use prescription medications
If your eyes are very irritated by allergies, it requires prescription medications. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will probably tell you to remove contact lenses until symptoms improve. Dr. Stetson said that the best and most common option in the market are the anti-allergic drops Lastacaft and Pataday.
These two drops provide relief from allergy symptoms throughout the day, usually with a single dose, and contain an antihistamine, as well as a mast cell stabilizing cell. Mast cells are trigger-response cells, which, when the body detects an antigen, release the forces of histamine.
“Having a drop that not only controls histamine, but also reduces or stabilizes mast cells so they do not go ahead and release histamine in the first place, is very effective,” said Dr. Stetson.
8. Prescription of more powerful medications
If you are having a particularly severe allergic reaction that requires a strong and rapid anti-inflammatory action, your ophthalmologist can prescribe either a drop of steroids or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drop (ibuprofen in the form of eye drops).
“A drop of steroids is often prescribed for severe allergy problems, but it will not be used for a long period of time to avoid possible harmful side effects, such as increased intraocular pressure (fluid pressure inside the eyes), as well as a potential cataract formation, “said Dr. Stetson.
“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can be used safely in the symptoms of moderate to severe allergies, without the side effects mentioned.” Prolensa and Ketorolac are two nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
9. When to consider LASIK surgery
If your contact lenses are really a problem during the allergy season, or you develop allergies to them, you might consider a permanent corrective eye surgery, such as LASIK. Although these laser surgeries have no effect on seasonal allergies, they can help you greatly eliminate the need to wear contact lenses that trap antigens near your eye.
10. Eat honey produced locally
For people with mild allergies and pet owners, Dr. Stetson gives them holistic advice to reduce the overall severity of seasonal allergies, which is to eat raw, unfiltered honey from a nearby apiary. Local bees make honey from the same pollen that irritates your system, but if during the whole year you are exposed to small doses of pollen, your body will get used to it and stop seeing it as a threat worth deploying histamine troops.
When you begin to be allergic to your lenses
You can wear contact lenses for 10 or 15 years without any problem, and suddenly your body reaches a threshold and the plastic that touches your eye becomes irritating.
The body then produces a histamine response, which leads to “a cascade of inflammatory events, causing the growth of blood vessels in the eyelid,” said Dr. Stetson. These inflamed blood vessels are known as giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC), and this condition occurs in 5 to 10 percent of contact lens wearers, estimated Dr. Stetson.
“It’s a scary thing for patients,” he said, adding that patients usually do not understand why they are having this problem all of a sudden.
In addition to eyelid involvement, CPG symptoms include swollen, itchy eyelids, often accompanied by a slimy, milky discharge and blurred vision.
“What cures this problem is to stop using contact lenses,” said Dr. Stetson.
Generally, doctors also prescribe a drop of steroids and sometimes also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drop for CPG, he said.
Some patients after having CPG, can use different contact lenses that have a greater diffusion of oxygen, however the eyes are still more sensitive and often can not use their contact lenses for a long time.
The sutures in the eye, and the lint trapped there for a long time, can also cause CPG, but soft contact lenses, very popular nowadays for their comfort factor, are perhaps the biggest culprit.
Soft contact lenses are larger than hard lenses used 30 years ago, they measure about 14 millimeters in diameter, compared to hard lenses around 9 millimeters. Because they were smaller, hard lenses did not cover the entire cornea, “they moved more around the eye, allowing more oxygenation and a greater flow of tears,” Dr. Stetson said.
The greater coverage of the cornea by soft lenses means fewer tears capable of reaching below the lens, keeping the eyes red and unhealthy.
Refractive surgeries such as LASIK, eliminate the need for contact lenses, also greatly limit the risk of CPG. “By removing a piece of plastic from the eye, we are doing a great service,” said Dr. Stetson.
“The reality is that, in the long term, soft contact lenses will do more damage to the eyes.”
Allergies are the sixth cause of chronic diseases in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pollen, herbs, dust, mold, smoke, perfume, food and pet dander can put your immune system in overdrive, resulting in uncomfortable allergic reactions.
Some allergies, such as peanut allergy, tend to be for life, while many people are born with other childhood allergies. A person can develop allergies at any age.
Alternative treatments for allergies include acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, which can help resolve the underlying imbalances of the immune system.