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What Causes Eye Allergies? | Long Island Eye Doctor

Dr. Joel Kestenbaum

We already have a couple of other blog posts up about eye allergies and how to treat them.  However, if you are not finding what you need in those previous posts or you have tried what was recommended and nothing is working, I would advise making an eye appointment with one of our eye doctors at Optix Family Eyecare Center on Long Island.

Today, I want to talk about why we feel so miserable when our eye allergies kick in.  By understanding what happens to the different parts of your eye during this time, it can make it easier to prevent additional symptoms or choose the right medication.

What Happens to Your Eye with Eye Allergies

When you develop eye allergies, it is because your eyes are having a reaction to something that got into your eye and it doesn’t like it.  Very similar to when you inhale something your lungs don’t like and you start to cough and have a hard time breathing.

The reaction you see from eye allergies, involve two parts of your eye: the conjunctiva and the tear glands.  Sometimes your eyelid is involved, but this is not the case in all reactions.

The conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that covers the inner folds of the eyelids and the white surface of the eyeball.  It has many blood vessels and cells (mast cells) that release histamine.  You also have mast cells in your lungs, but they are far outnumbered by the ones in your eye.

When an allergen gets into your eye, the mast cells react by releasing histamine to fight the allergen.  The tear glands also go into overdrive in an attempt to wash out the allergen at the same time.  These two reactions lead to the burning, itching and watery eyes you experience from eye allergies.

Don’t Try to Rub Your Eye Allergies Away

I know this is hard not to do with your eyes being itchy, watery and just generally feeling bad.  However, rubbing your eyes will actually cause the mast cells to release even more histamine.  Meaning that the more you rub your eyes to try and make yourself feel better; the worse you are actually making the situation and the worse your eyes are going to feel.

Please take my advice and DO NOT RUB YOUR EYES!

Is it Really Eye Allergies or Something Else?

There are a number of other eye issues that I see in my office that people often mistake as eye allergies.  These eye conditions can mimic allergy symptoms really close, but aren’t eye allergies at all:

  • Dry Eye – Feels like something is in your eye and is caused by a decrease in tear production.  Symptoms include a burning sensation and the feeling of grittiness.  Generally there is no itching.  Itching is the hallmark sign of allergy.
  • Conjunctivitis – A viral or bacterial infection that makes your eyes bright red in the morning and may make your eyelids stick together.  It is very contagious and is spread through the contact of the mucous discharge coming from the eyes.
  • Tear-Duct Obstruction – A blockage from the nasal cavity to the eyes in the tear passage.  Symptoms include watery eyes without the itchy feeling.

For both routine and problem related care, consider scheduling an appointment with your eye doctor or with one of our eye doctors at Optix Family Eyecare Center in Plainview Long Island.

If nothing you have tried to relieve your eye allergies is working, let us help.


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