Help and frequently asked questions

What are the treatments for ocular allergies?


Just as other parts of your body can break out in an allergic reaction to a certain irritating substance, so too can your eyes. Ocular allergies (also known as allergic conjunctivitis) occur when an allergen causes the conjunctiva to become irritated.

The conjunctiva is the name for the membrane that covers the eye and the inside of the eyelid. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system wrongly identifies a substance as an allergen, and produces an over-reaction in response. When it happens on the eye, this process results in physical symptoms such as redness, wateriness, itchiness and swelling. Your eyes may hurt or feel more tired and sore than usual. There are several options for treatment in this case.

Antihistamine pills and eye drops can be taken to alleviate the symptoms. You can also take steps to prevent exposure to the allergens by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes. See your optometrist if your symptoms persist or become worse.

On the other hand, blepharitis is not caused by an allergic reaction. It is an eyelid inflammation that is caused by either a bacterial infection or problems with the meibomian glands that secrete oils around the eye. The symptoms of blepharitis are more severe than an allergy and can cause burning, flaking, crusting, tearing, itching and irritation as well as redness of the eyelids. The treatment for blepharitis involves using lid scrubs or special cleaning products to keep the eyelid area free from infection. Sometimes topical medications and creams may be prescribed. 

Some people have both blepharitis and an eye allergy, in which case you will need a tailored treatment. See your optometrist for more advice. Occasionally, people can develop an allergic reaction to the preservative used in eye drops. Your optometrist can advise you about the alternatives safe for your use.