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Allergies


An allergic reaction is your body's overreaction to a substance it thinks will do harm. For example, dust or pet dander is harmless to most people, but some people's immune system recognizes it as harmful and responds by trying to eliminate it from the body. This overreaction causes the common red, itching and tearing eyes associated with ocular allergies. See also allergic conjunctivitis.

Causes
Many allergens in the air come in contact with your eyes and nose. Common allergens include: pollen, mold, dust and pet dander.

Symptoms
· Itchy, red, tearing, or swollen eyes
· Runny nose
· Sneezing
· Coughing
· Difficulty breathing
· Itchy nose, mouth or throat
· Headache from sinus congestion

Treatments

Avoidance
The best "treatment" is to avoid what's causing your allergy, but this is sometimes impossible. Keep your home free of pet dander, dust, and stay inside with the air conditioner on when a lot of pollen is in the air. Air conditioners filter out some of the allergens.

Medications
If you're not sure what's causing your allergy, or you're not having any luck avoiding it, your next step will probably be medications to alleviate the symptoms.

Eyedrops are available as simple eye washes, or they may have one or more active ingredients such as antihistamines, decongestants or mast cell stabilizers. Antihistamines relieve many symptoms caused by airborne allergens, such as itchy, watery eyes. Decongestants clear up redness and nasal congestion. They are, however, not the best medication for long term ocular use because the ocular surface can become dependent on the drops and look more red for a period of time after discontinuing the drops. Some products have ingredients that act as mast cell stabilizers, which alleviate redness and swelling. Mast cell stabilizers are similar to antihistamines, but while antihistamines are known for their immediate relief, mast cell stabilizers are known for their long-lasting relief and need to be used consistently for weeks to maintain their effectiveness.

Antihistamines and decongestants are available in pill form and are occasionally necessary for more severe cases. Your optometrist may need to prescribe a combination of eye drops and prescription oral medication (pills) to more completely relieve the allergic symptoms.

Immunotherapy
This treatment involves an allergy specialist injecting you with small amounts of the allergen to help you gradually build up an immunity to it.

For more information, visit http://www.aaaai.org/nab/default.stm