For many Oklahomans, ocular allergies seem inevitable. Along with sunny skies and blooming flowers, most of us expect itchy eyes and runny noses. In fact, Northern Oklahoma has more allergy diagnoses than almost all regions of the United States, with both Payne and Pawnee counties treating seasonal allergies 365 days a year.
Those who experience ocular allergies know that itching is the primary source of discomfort. For most people, itchy eyes indicate that several other symptoms are on their way. These symptoms usually include redness, tearing, and swollen eyes. The eyes are especially vulnerable to allergens and irritants because, like our skin, they are exposed and unprotected which make them especially sensitive. Allergens cause cells in the eye, called “mast cells,” to release histamine and other chemicals that cause blood vessels to dilate, mucous membranes to itch, and the eyes and eyelids to swell and produce tears. When the eyes start itching most people start rubbing them to relieve the itching however, rubbing only makes the situation worse. Rubbing the eyes causes more mast cells to break open and release histamine, which in turn makes the itching worse and begins a cycle that is hard to break without treatment.
Treatment includes topical antihistamine drops and cold compresses to reduce swelling and alleviate itching. Over-the-counter allergy drops are very beneficial. The good news is, there are more former prescription allergy drops that are now available as over-the-counter than ever before. We recommend Alaway, Zaditor, and Pataday.
In moderate to severe cases, over-the-counter antihistamine drops may not be enough and steroid drops may be necessary. For moderate to severe cases that require longer treatment, “soft steroids” are now available and do not produce the same side effects steroid eye drops may. Like steroid eye drops, soft steroids are prescription, not over-the-counter. Oral antihistamines, such as those used to relieve a runny nose, are also helpful, but they are not as effective in treating ocular allergy symptoms as topical ophthalmic drops.
If you have questions concerning eye allergies or feel you could benefit from treatment, please contact our offices in Stillwater at 405-372-1715. We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!