Allergic Conjunctivitis

Inflammation causing itchy, watery, red eyes

Conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva, or skin around your eyes, causing itchy, watery and red eyes.

Many people associate conjunctivitis with eye infections caused by viruses or bacteria, such as pink eye. However, allergies often can cause it.

Substances in the air and environment can enter your eyes in a variety of ways. When you have allergies, your immune system attempts to attack the allergens as if they are a virus or bacteria.

Your immune response causes the swelling, itchiness and redness of conjunctivitis. Continued rubbing or touching of your eyes puts you in danger of eye infection or eye damage by exposing you to bacteria, viruses and other particles.

Overview

Substances in the air and environment can enter your eyes in a variety of ways. When you have allergies, your immune system attempts to attack the allergens as if they are a virus or bacteria.

Your immune response causes the swelling, itchiness and redness of conjunctivitis. Continued rubbing or touching of your eyes puts you in danger of eye infection or eye damage by exposing you to bacteria, viruses and other particles.

Airborne allergies, like the ones that commonly cause allergic conjunctivitis, can be difficult to avoid, but our physicians understand how to help you manage your symptoms in a safe and effective way. We will educate you on how to reduce exposure to your allergy triggers and properly take your medicines, so that your symptoms stay under control no matter the season.

You can reduce the severity of your symptoms by removing contact lenses, washing your face and hands and rinsing out your eyes with saline eye drops or solution. In addition, you can visit one of our skilled allergists who can create an individualized treatment plan for you.

Finding the cause of allergic conjunctivitis is an important step in eliminating itchy, watery eyes.

Allergy skin testing

We perform skin testing to determine the cause of allergies. We do this by pricking your skin with needles, usually on your back or arm, then exposing you to small, safe amounts of allergens. If the site swells and reddens, we know that you are sensitive to that particular substance. This helps us understand your individual sensitivities and treat them.

Allergy medicines

The same over-the-counter and prescription medicines that control allergic rhinitis symptoms often control conjunctivitis. Antihistamines, steroidal eye drops and lubricating drops can help relieve symptoms.

Education

While it is impossible to completely eliminate your exposure to many airborne allergens, we can teach you to limit exposure as much as possible. Installing air filters, cleaning your home often, keeping windows closed and limiting your time outside on high-pollen count days may all reduce allergy symptoms.

Referral to specialists

If allergy testing reveals that you do not have allergies, we refer you to an IU Health ophthalmology specialist--¬an expert in the treatment of eye disorders and diseases. Our highly skilled specialists may perform further testing to uncover the cause behind your conjunctivitis and find the right treatment for your condition.

Treatment

Airborne allergies, like the ones that commonly cause allergic conjunctivitis, can be difficult to avoid, but our physicians understand how to help you manage your symptoms in a safe and effective way. We will educate you on how to reduce exposure to your allergy triggers and properly take your medicines, so that your symptoms stay under control no matter the season.

You can reduce the severity of your symptoms by removing contact lenses, washing your face and hands and rinsing out your eyes with saline eye drops or solution. In addition, you can visit one of our skilled allergists who can create an individualized treatment plan for you.

Finding the cause of allergic conjunctivitis is an important step in eliminating itchy, watery eyes.

Allergy skin testing

We perform skin testing to determine the cause of allergies. We do this by pricking your skin with needles, usually on your back or arm, then exposing you to small, safe amounts of allergens. If the site swells and reddens, we know that you are sensitive to that particular substance. This helps us understand your individual sensitivities and treat them.

Allergy medicines

The same over-the-counter and prescription medicines that control allergic rhinitis symptoms often control conjunctivitis. Antihistamines, steroidal eye drops and lubricating drops can help relieve symptoms.

Education

While it is impossible to completely eliminate your exposure to many airborne allergens, we can teach you to limit exposure as much as possible. Installing air filters, cleaning your home often, keeping windows closed and limiting your time outside on high-pollen count days may all reduce allergy symptoms.

Referral to specialists

If allergy testing reveals that you do not have allergies, we refer you to an IU Health ophthalmology specialist--¬an expert in the treatment of eye disorders and diseases. Our highly skilled specialists may perform further testing to uncover the cause behind your conjunctivitis and find the right treatment for your condition.

Medline Plus

The National Institutes of Health provides an overview of allergic conjunctivitis, its symptoms and its treatments.

Resources

Medline Plus

The National Institutes of Health provides an overview of allergic conjunctivitis, its symptoms and its treatments.

Patient Stories for Allergic Conjunctivitis