Allergies can get on your nerves and test your patience. When the eye is irritated, you can expect to have tearing, itchy eyes, swollen eyelids, and mucus discharge, among other symptoms.

According to the latest statistics[1], allergic conjunctivitis affects up to 40% of the population. However, only a fraction of those who have it, actually get medical treatment. A lot of people underestimate this condition. Little do they know that having this allergy can interfere with their daily life.

Around 10% to 30% of the general population has simple eye allergy. It tends to develop in people under the age of 20 and becomes less common in old age. Allergic conjunctivitis often occurs alongside seasonal allergy symptoms.

It tends to happen when someone is exposed to known allergens or has a history of atopic conditions, like eczema or asthma. That’s why we see many cases of recurrent episodes. Here is a complete overview of what you can expect with a condition like this.

What Is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is an eye allergy. It’s recognized by disturbance and inflammation of the eyes because of an allergic reaction. You experience a reaction in your conjunctiva, which is the clear layer of tissue lining that covers the white part of the eye.

The conjunctiva starts to swell if your eye has come in contact with a specific irritant or allergen such as mold spores, pollen, pet dander, grass, dust mites, airborne irritants, etc. This often isn’t a serious problem but, it can also develop in both eyes and become relatively hard to overcome.

Types of Allergic Conjunctivitis

This condition occurs in two primary types.

Acute Allergic Conjunctivitis

This is a short-term allergic reaction. The allergy season makes you prone to acute allergic conjunctivitis. You may notice your eyelids puffing up accompanied by a burning sensation, followed by a strong itch. You can also struggle with a runny nose.

These symptoms should subside in a couple of hours. Most people don’t require treatment, especially if you remove the allergen that caused the reaction. If the allergen is difficult to avoid, your doctor might suggest you use anti-allergy eye drops for short-term relief.

Chronic Allergic Conjunctivitis

This is a persistent allergic reaction. It is a long-lasting form of inflammation of the conjunctiva. It can occur year-round and last for months.

Have you been asking yourself “Why do my eyes hurt?” In some cases, the symptoms can be very draining and you may experience burning and gritty sensations.


Causes of Allergic Conjunctivitis

Our body has a very complex and effective immune system that’s designed to identify foreign agents, once they make their way inside the system. If the system doesn’t consider the foreign agent as a threat, it won’t take any action against it.

Misplaced responses can wrongly identify harmless agents as harmful. Such is the case with allergic conjunctivitis.

To different people, allergy means different things. For instance, some can develop a reaction to specific ingredients in eye makeup, while others can use that makeup without a problem.

Some of the most notable causes include:

  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen from grass, flowers, ragweed, and trees
  • Chemical substances (i.e. from perfumes, cleaning agents, cosmetics, etc)
  • Pet dander
  • Air pollution
  • Skin medicine
  • Smoke

Chronic cases could lead to some changes in the tissues of the secretory glands. This can then trigger the production of unhealthy tear components[2], eventually leading to dry eyes. While dry eyes syndrome often happens because the tears don’t provide proper lubrication, allergies happen because of an immune system reaction.

Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis

When you experience allergic conjunctivitis, you can develop a range of symptoms. The seasonal type varies based on the weather and time of year. If you have a general allergy, then your eyes can react to pollen, dust, or other allergens throughout the year. You can expect to develop:

  • Watery, red, or itchy eyes
  • A feeling of grittiness (rough, irritated, or scratchy)
  • Burning sensation
  • Puffy eyes when you wake up in the morning
  • Light sensitivity
  • Swollen eyelids

But, how long does pink eye last? The symptoms should go away in 7 to 10 days[3]. However, if the symptoms become debilitating and uncomfortable, it’s best to get treatment.

Pink eye caused by an allergic reaction is not contagious. Your eye should get better when you stop exposing it to the allergen. But, if you want to know how long is pink eye contagious, a viral pink eye can be passed from person to person for 10 to 14 days. You may need 3 weeks or more for it to heal.

Who Is at Risk for Allergic Conjunctivitis?

If you have allergies, then you are prone to experiencing allergic conjunctivitis. Based on recent statistics[4], about 50 million Americans are diagnosed with environmental and seasonal allergies. Roughly 24 million have seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Some of the most classic triggers include animal dander, dust mites, pollen, and mold. If both parents have allergies, then their child is 75% more likely to develop an allergy. This can cause problems for the eyes.

The Ocuvital eye health supplement has all the essential nutrients your eye would need at times like these. It is packed with antioxidant properties that can shield the eyes and boost normal cell function. Even if you are exposed to daily stress, you can mitigate your eye health with a product like this.

Treatment Methods for Allergic Conjunctivitis

There are a couple of treatments for you to try, all of which can alleviate the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis.

1. Home Care

You can take care of your eyes in the comfort of your home with the following options:

  • Use saline eye drops or artificial tears to rinse the eyes. You can buy them from your local pharmacy.
  • Don’t rub the itchy eyes, this can worsen the symptoms.
  • Protect the eyes with sunglasses if you are allergic to pollen or airborne particles.
  • Jump in the shower as soon as you get back home. This can help you wash away the allergens that are stuck in your body.
  • Use a cool compress to ease the discomfort, itchiness, and inflammation.
  • Don’t touch your eyes with dirty hands. Wash them first after you handle your pet or work with any dirty surfaces.
  • Avoid wearing your contact lenses if your cornea is affected.
  • Don’t apply too much eye make-up. Any chemicals or fragrances might aggravate the symptoms.

2. Medications

If home care doesn’t work, see an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist. They can suggest you use medical treatment for itchy eyes. These may include:

  • Steroid eye drops
  • Anti-inflammatory eye drops
  • Over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops for blocking or decreasing histamine release
  • Prescription medication, like bepotastine
  • Vasoconstrictors

Only a doctor can recommend the best course of action.

Allergic Conjunctivitis Prevention Tips

The best way to defend against allergies is to avoid them. Keep windows and doors closed during peak allergy seasons such as spring, when pollen is prevalent.

So, to prevent a reaction, try to stay indoors during the peak pollen days. Feel free to use an indoor air purifier. Wipe the dust from the shelves and everything else in the house as often as you can, and vacuum the area.

If it takes too long for you to clean the house, then you might want to limit the curtains and carpets in your rooms. These too can collect a lot of dust and pet dander. Instead, opt for cork flooring or non-toxic hardwood. These are very easy to clean.

Another crucial prevention tactic is to have a diet high in antioxidants. Studies[5] show that consuming antioxidants can reduce the occurrence of allergic diseases. It can decrease the production of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) within the body and enhance the overall ability of human cells to combat oxidative stress. So, try to eat more asparagus, avocados, radishes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, kale, and other foods that can benefit you in the long run.


How long can allergic conjunctivitis last?

It depends on the type of allergic conjunctivitis you have. If you have an acute problem, then the reaction should subside in 1 hour or less[6] but, it is not uncommon for it to last a few days. Acute cases subside when you move away from the root of the problem. Chronic cases last longer. You may experience symptoms lasting a couple of weeks or more. However, this can vary from patient to patient.

Is allergic conjunctivitis the same as the pink eye?

Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye[7]” is an infection or irritation of the conjunctiva. This is a thin membrane that covers the whites of the eyes and inner eyelids. Anyone can develop it, including adults and children.

Different factors can trigger pink eyes, such as viral infections, allergens, and bacterial infections. Allergic conjunctivitis develops from an allergic reaction. And allergies can cause a pink eye.

Is allergic conjunctivitis serious?

Most of the time, it causes mild to moderate symptoms that shouldn’t be that big of a problem. If the symptoms are moderate, OTC medicine can come in handy. People with acute cases have an easier time managing the condition, as it may not require treatment.

Severe symptoms can seriously affect the quality of your life. You may need to leave work just to take care of your eyes. So, consult with a doctor if you experience any discomfort when allergens are at their peak.



Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Zayed, has years of experience in the field and has been contributing to public health awareness. Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. Egypt. Dr. Zayed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. His articles were featured on many websites like HuffingtonPost, Chicagotribune . Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Zayed spends his time outside the hospital, either reading or at the gym.

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayad

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