Q. What is the "Red Eye"? And is it related to allergies?

A. No, we are not talking about airplane flights here... "Red Eye" is a "basket" term that encompasses a wide range of eye conditions. Most conditions are self-limited; however, red eye can be a sign of serious eye disease. Presence of pain helps to distinguish between the more serious eye conditions and less serious ones, as pain may be present in a vision-threatening disorder. Eye allergy commonly affects both eyes and is associated with itching and tearing. A white "ropey" discharge can occur if this becomes a more chronic condition. Eye allergy (allergic conjunctivitis) does not typically threaten vision unless it is a chronic, very severe form. Seek a more detailed discussion and evaluation with your allergist or eye doctor.

Q. For eye allergy symptoms, what kind of treatment is available and which should I try first?

A. First-line therapy includes avoidance, cold compresses, lubrication, and those who wear contact lenses should use the disposable kind.?Avoidance, however, is easier said than done in some cases, especially when it comes to seasonal allergies. You can’t really move away for 3 to 4 months at a time! And while artificial tears don’t address the cause of the problem, they are nonetheless helpful in rinsing away allergens.

Those with ocular (eye) allergies have numerous therapies available after these first-line remedies are tried. Topical eye antihistamines (prescription and over-the-counter) give immediate relief. However, these cannot be used with contact lenses in place. Steroid nasal sprays may be useful for eye symptoms related to nasal allergies, indirectly, in milder cases. Over-the-counter oral antihistamines can help as well, but may lead to dry eye problems. See an allergist for assessment of what is causing your eye allergies, and to determine if any of your allergy triggers are avoidable. Allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots, work very well to control eye allergy symptoms, but will not work immediately.

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