Allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction characterized by inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the mucous membrane that lines the inner eyelid and front of the eye. When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, it can make the eyes redden, water, and itch. The eyelid may also swell, and all of these symptoms can blur a person’s vision. Allergic conjunctivitis may be accompanied by other allergy symptoms, or it may occur alone.
Although allergic conjunctivitis is sometimes called allergic pinkeye, it’s not contagious like the pink eye that’s caused by bacteria or viruses. The symptoms are caused by the immune system’s overreaction to allergens that it perceives to be pathogens, not to actual pathogens that could spread to another person.
Doctors use two ways to treat allergic conjunctivitis. At times, both methods may be used.
The severity of the symptoms caused by allergic conjunctivitis can often be reduced with decongestants, antihistamines, artificial tears, ocular steroids, and other medications. Some of these medications are available over the counter, but others require a prescription from a doctor.
In recurrent cases of allergic conjunctivitis, allergists can often help reduce the allergic reaction itself through immunotherapy, which exposes a patient to small amounts of the allergens they’re allergic to. Over time, the immune system comes to recognize these allergens as benign and reacts less to them. The body may be exposed to allergens via allergy shots or oral tablets.
When selecting an allergist, Greater Minneapolis residents who suffer from allergic conjunctivitis should first look for a physician who is licensed and board-certified in Minnesota. They should also seek out someone who has a practice that’s conveniently located, in case they need to drop by the practice for weekly allergy shots.
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