What causes allergy of the eyes

Common allergens include pollen, animal dander and mold.

Eye allergies also can be caused by reactions to certain cosmetics or eye drops, including artificial tears used for treating dry eyes that contain preservatives.

Food allergies and allergic reactions to bee stings or other insect bites typically do not affect the eyes as severely as airborne allergens do.


Pink eye can often be treated at home, according to the NEI.

But you should see a doctor if you own moderate to severe pain in the eye, vision problems that don’t improve when the discharge is wiped from the eyes and extreme redness in the eyes.

What causes allergy of the eyes

If you own a weakened immune system or ponder you own viral pink eye and the symptoms worsen or don’t get any better with time, it’s also significant to see a doctor, according to the NEI.

Newborns with symptoms of conjunctivitis should see a healthcare provider correct away, according to the CDC.

Virus conjunctivitis infections are typically mild and will resolve on its own within a week or two, according to the NEI. Mild bacteria-caused pink eye most often also resolves on its own, but antibiotic ointments or eye drops can hasten the process.

For allergic and irritant-caused pink eye, the inflammation will go away on its own once the allergen or irritant is eliminated or greatly reduced.

There are several at-home treatments that can provide some relief.

Swartz suggested that it’s best to wipe away the discharge with a warm cloth several times a day.

A freezing compress can also be used to sooth allergic conjunctivitis and a warm compress can be used to sooth viral or bacterial pink eye. Eye drops may also assist alleviate dryness and assist with swelling. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine.

Contact lens wearers with pink eye should stop wearing their contact lenses until their eyes heal. They should also throw away any used contacts.

Pink eye is generally contagious until the tearing, discharge and matting of the eyes goes away. This can final up to two weeks.

Eye allergy relief

To get relief from your eye allergies and itchy, watery eyes, you can take a few approaches:

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a more serious eye allergy than SAC or PAC.

While it can happen year-round, symptoms may worsen seasonally. It primarily occurs in boys and young men; about 75 percent of patients also own eczema or asthma. Symptoms include:

  1. Itching
  2. The feeling of having something in the eye (foreign body sensation)
  3. Significant tearing and production of thick mucus
  4. Aversion to light (photophobia)

If left untreated, vernal keratoconjunctivitis can impair vision.

Avoid allergens

The best approach to controlling your eye allergy symptoms is to do everything you can to limit your exposure to common allergens that you know you are sensitive to.

For example, on days when the pollen count is high, stay indoors as much as possible, with the air conditioner running to filter the air.

Use high quality furnace filters that can trap common allergens and replace the filters frequently.

When you do go outdoors during allergy season, wear wraparound sunglasses to assist shield your eyes from pollen, ragweed, etc., and drive with your windows closed.


The primary types of eye allergy are seasonal or perennial allergic conjunctivitis, vernal keratoconjunctivitis, atopic keratoconjunctivitis, contact allergic conjunctivitis and giant papillary conjunctivitis.

Seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis

Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is by far the most common type of eye allergy.

Patients experience symptoms in spring, summer or drop, depending on the type of plant pollens in the air. Typical symptoms include:

  1. Itching
  2. Burning
  3. Redness
  4. Clear, watery discharge

People with SAC may own chronic dark circles (known as allergic shiners) under their eyes. The eyelids may be puffy, and bright lights may be bothersome. SAC symptoms often accompany the runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion associated with hay fever and other seasonal allergies. The itching may be so bothersome that patients rub their eyes frequently, making symptoms worse and potentially causing infection.

Perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC), as its name implies, occurs year-round.

Symptoms are the same as with SAC, but tend to be milder. They are caused by reactions to dust mites, mold, pet dander or other household allergens, rather than pollen.

Contact allergic conjunctivitis

This can result from irritation by contact lenses or by the proteins from tears that bind to the surface of the lens.

What causes allergy of the eyes

Symptoms include:

  1. Redness
  2. Mucous discharge
  3. Itching
  4. Lens discomfort

Remove your contacts

Because the surface of contact lenses can attract and accumulate airborne allergens, consider wearing glasses instead of contacts during allergy season. Or consider switching to daily disposable contacts that you discard after a single use to avoid the buildup of allergens and other debris on your lenses.

Often, the best choice if allergies are bothering your eyes is to discontinue wearing contacts altogether — at least until every your allergy symptoms are gone. Also, wearing eyeglasses with photochromic lenses can reduce allergy-related sensitivity to light and can assist shield your eyes from airborne allergens.

Atopic keratoconjunctivitis

This type of allergy primarily affects older patients — mostly men with a history of allergic dermatitis.

Symptoms of atopic keratoconjunctivitis can happen year-round and are similar to those of vernal keratoconjunctivitis:

  1. Severe itching
  2. Redness
  3. Burning
  4. Significant production of thick mucus that, after sleep, may cause the eyelids to stick together

If left untreated, atopic keratoconjunctivitis can result in scarring of the cornea and its delicate membrane.

Ask about prescription medications

If your allergy symptoms are relatively severe or over-the-counter eye drops are ineffective at providing relief, you may need your eye doctor to prescribe a stronger medication.

Prescription eye drops and oral medications used to relieve eye allergies include:


Part of the body's natural allergic response is the release of histamine, a substance that dilates blood vessels and making the walls of blood vessels abnormally permeable.

Symptoms caused by histamine include a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.

What causes allergy of the eyes

Antihistamines reduce allergic reactions by blocking the attachment of histamine to cells in the body that produce an allergic response.

Use eye drops

Because eye allergies are so common, there are numerous brands of non-prescription eye drops available that are formulated to relieve itchiness, redness and watery eyes caused by allergies.

If your eye allergy symptoms are relatively mild, non-prescription eye drops for allergy relief may work extremely well for you and may be less expensive than prescription eye drops or other medication.

Enquire your eye doctor to recommend a brand to try.

Giant papillary conjunctivitis

Associated with wearing contact lenses, giant papillary conjunctivitis is a severe form of contact allergic conjunctivitis in which individual fluid sacs, or papules, form in the upper lining of the inner eyelid. Symptoms include:

  1. Itching
  2. Blurred vision
  3. Mucous discharge
  4. Puffiness
  5. Tearing
  6. Poor tolerance for wearing contact lenses
  7. Foreign body sensation

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, develops when the blood vessels in the transparent membrane, or conjunctiva, that line the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball get inflamed.

The inflammation causes blood vessels to become more visible and gives the whites of the eyes a distinct pink or red tint, which is where the condition gets its name.


Pink eye is one of the most common ailments to affect both children and adults, according to theNational Eye Institute (NEI). There are four main factors that can cause pink eye: an allergic reaction, a foreign substance in the eye, a viral infection or a bacterial infection.

When it is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, pink eye can be extremely contagious.

«It is spread when a person touches his or her own eye and then touches the eye of another person; or it is spread to the individual by touching the infection in one’s own nose or sinus,» said Dr.

Jill Swartz, practicing physician at GoHealth Urgent Care.

Viral conjunctivitis is the most common form of pink eye and it is most commonly caused by a freezing virus, according to theAmerican Academy of Ophthalmology. It can also be caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection of the eye. This bacteria is sometimes the same that causes strep throat.

On the other hand, allergic and foreign-substance-caused conjunctivitis aren’t contagious.

Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites or mold. On the other hand, irritant-caused pink eye can result from a foreign object in the eye, contact with chemicals, fumes, cosmetics or from wearing contact lenses for too endless or without cleaning them properly.

Newborns can also get a form of pink eye known as «neonatal conjunctivitis,» from an infection, irritation or blocked tear duct, according to the NEI.

Eye allergies: Get relief from itchy, watery eyes

By Gary Heiting, OD

Eye allergies — red, itchy, watery eyes that are bothered by the same irritants that cause sneezing and a runny nose among seasonal allergy sufferers — are extremely common.

In addition to having symptoms of sneezing, congestion and a runny nose, most of these allergy sufferers also experience itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes and swollen eyelids.

In some cases, eye allergies also can frolic a role in conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections.

If you ponder you own eye allergies, here are a few things you should know — including helpful tips on how to get relief from your red, itchy, watery eyes.


Symptoms can happen in one or both eyes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Pink eye is generally extremely simple to detect.

When the membrane becomes inflamed, it produces mucus and tears to protect the eye.

«It generally starts in a single eye with goopy, thick crusted discharge — you wake up and the eye feels sealed love glue,» said Cindy Weston, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Middle College of Nursing.

The other most obvious symptom is reddened whites of the eye. Inflammation or swelling from pink eye makes blood vessels more visible, causing the redness.

Pink eye can also cause itchy and watery eyes, a grainy feeling in the eye, swelling of the eyelids, cloudy vision, a burning sensation and light sensitivity.

Sometimes the lymph node in front of the ear can magnify or become tender or contact lenses may not stay in put or feel uncomfortable because of bumps that may form under the eyelids, according to the NEI.

The symptoms can vary depending on the cause. Viral conjunctivitis generally comes on quickly and can be associated with «cold» pink-eye-symptoms love runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, congestion, said Weston.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is often marked by thick, yellow-green discharge and can also exhibit cold-like symptoms. It can also sometimes accompany an ear infection, according to the NEI.

Allergic conjunctivitis generally affects both eyes.

The eyes will often feel watery, itchy and scratchy. The discharge is clear and may be accompanied by other allergy symptoms including itchy nose, sneezing and clear nasal drainage.


Pink eye can be highly contagious, especially in children, so it is significant to take steps to prevent infection. Dr. John Soud, owner and co-founder of Velocity Care Urgent Treatment Centers, provided these tips for preventing the spread of pink eye:

  1. Never touch your eyes or the area around your eyes without washing your hands first.
  2. Be certain to discard ancient cosmetics and anything that comes in contact with your eyes during an infection.
  3. Never share makeup products.

Weston added that surfaces should be wiped below with disinfectant, and towels should be laundered after use to assist prevent the spread of infection.

Additional resources

This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.

This article was updated on Oct. 9, 2018, by Live Science Staff Author, Yasemin Saplakoglu.

The clocks own gone forward, the evenings are growing lighter and across the land, GP surgeries are bracing themselves for an influx of sneezing, snivelling patients begging for assist with their hay fever. About one in four Britons, or 16 million people, are now affected by allergic rhinitis – to give hay fever its official name – compared with just one in eight in the early 1980s.

A century ago, the illness was almost unheard of.

No one is certain about the reasons behind this astronomic rise, but the majority of immunologists point the finger at the hygiene hypothesis: the theory that our ultra-clean homes own left numerous immune systems less capable to tolerate irritants. Yet despite – or maybe because of – hay fever being so widespread, numerous people are ignorant of fairly how debilitating it can be.

What causes allergy of the eyes

“Family members, GPs, even patients themselves can dismiss hay fever as just a bit of sneezing, but for about 10% of sufferers it causes abject misery,” says Professor Stephen Durham of the Royal Brompton allergy clinic in London. “It worst affects young, athletic people at work and school: studies show it can increase by 70% the chance of their summer exam grade being worse than their previous, out-of-season mock test results.”

But young people aren’t the only ones suffering: studies show that increasing numbers of adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s are developing hay fever.

Half a million new “middle-aged” cases are predicted in the next decade, according to the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit. Of these, numerous never even suspect an allergy, instead believing they are suffering from a permanent freezing. Dr Adrian Morris, the director of the Surrey Allergy Clinic, says: “Many go to the GP complaining of sinus problems and finish up on antibiotics, when they really own hay fever and need antihistamines and nasal sprays.”

Others, warns Amena Warner, a nurse adviser at Allergy UK, treat their stuffiness with over-the-counter decongestants, which, used long-term, leave the nasal lining even more inflamed and susceptible to problems.

“You need a correct diagnosis so you can properly treat the problem,” she says.

There are also numerous people convinced that they own hay fever when in fact they are suffering from a diverse allergy. “Hay fever is a stupid name, really,” says Durham. “It is an allergy to grass, not hay, and it doesn’t produce a fever.”

If you are sneezing and own itchy eyes before the grass pollen season starts in June, you may own an allergy to birch pollen, which is increasingly common. Other trees and plants that spark allergies at diverse times of year include plane, oilseed rape, oak and nettle.

If your nose becomes runny in early spring or autumn, it could be the result of a mould allergy. If the sniffing continues every year circular, you might own an allergy to dust mites, mould or pets. “You may be attributing your sneezing to pollen, when in fact it is because you are sitting next to someone in the office who has a cat,” says Morris. What it is not so likely to be is a food allergy: these affect only 3% of the population, although 30% believe they own one.

Those in doubt should be referred to an allergy clinic, where tests, involving pricking your skin with tiny amounts of allergens to check for reactions, can be carried out. But waiting lists are often months long: Allergy UK points out that there are only 30 allergy specialists in the UK, one for every 700,000 sufferers.

And testing doesn’t always provide answers, as I discovered myself.

After years of a permanent runny nose, blocked ears and volcanic sneezes, my GP finally referred me to a clinic. My skin-prick tests every showed negative and I learned I was suffering from non-allergic rhinitis, meaning I own every the symptoms of hay fever, but no identifiable allergy.

I’m far from alone: one Norwegian study estimated that as numerous as 25% of the population suffers from this condition, which can make life every bit as miserable as for those with a known allergy.

What causes allergy of the eyes

Experts generally link the condition to changes in temperature or hormones, or sensitivity to environmental factors such as car exhaust, perfume or detergent.

But to make matters even more confusing, current research indicates that as numerous as 50% of those with non-allergic rhinitis may actually own an allergy after every, but one that skin-prick tests can’t identify. Until new, more sensitive tests appear, millions of us may remain in the dark. And without knowing exactly what our allergy is, tackling symptoms can be hard. Most allergic rhinitis symptoms can be controlled with over-the-counter antihistamines such as loratadine that, unlike first-generation pills, don’t make you drowsy.

What causes allergy of the eyes

Non-allergic rhinitis sufferers, however, are better off with a nasal spray such as Beconase.

Humidifiers, such as Dyson’s latest device that mists the room with ultraviolet-treated, bacteria-free water, can hugely relieve stuffy noses and sore throats. Conversely, they can produce ideal breeding conditions for dust mites and mould. Similarly, drying sheets in sunshine helps those allergic to dust mites, but is a bad thought for people with hay fever as it coats bed linen in pollen.

It is crucial, then, to know exactly what your enemy is.

“It is extremely simple to misdiagnose allergies – especially with the assist of Dr – and therefore for severe cases, it is a excellent thought to get a referral to an NHS allergy clinic,” says Durham. But with those lengthy waiting lists, in the meantime remember to stock up with tissues.


What causes allergy of the eyes