Allergic Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva—the mucous membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the front of the eye.

The conjunctiva helps to lubricate and protect the eye from irritants. When the conjunctiva is inflamed—as in conjunctivitis—it becomes less efficient, causing redness, itching, swelling and discomfort.

Allergy is a major cause of conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye complaints. Symptoms are usually mild to moderate, short-lived and easily treated. However, severe cases can cause extreme discomfort, swelling and impaired vision.

Causes

Conjunctivitis can be triggered and aggravated by numerous allergens and anything that can irritate the eyes, including:

  • dust mites, cockroaches and other insects
  • pollens from grasses, trees and weeds
  • contact with animals
  • animal dander (skin flakes) and saliva
  • mould spores
  • eye drops
  • contact lenses
  • swimming in chlorinated pools
  • soap, shampoo, bubble bath, detergents and other chemicals
  • cosmetics and nail polish
  • medications

Symptoms

Allergic conjunctivitis symptoms may be perennial or seasonal. The common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis can include:

  • Redness in both eyes
  • Discharge with pus (infection)
  • Clear discharge (viral or allergic)
  • Itching & burning of eye & surrounding tissue
  • Excess watering due to ‘dry eye’
  • Gritty sensation
  • Swollen eyelids

Treatment

Depending on the cause and severity, allergic conjunctivitis symptoms can be managed and treated in a number of ways:

  • managing/avoiding allergic triggers
  • eye drops, lubricants and ointments
  • eye baths, compresses and ice packs
  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroids
  • immunotherapy or desensitisation
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