Blurry vision, red eyes, contact lens irritation… A patient could blame an old prescription or needing to try a new type of contact lens. However, all of these symptoms could be caused by allergies. While a runny nose and sneezing are the stereotypical allergy symptoms, allergies can also cause a host of vision and eye symptoms that we as optometrists need to be aware of when it comes to treating patients.
When it comes to the treatment of allergies and accompanying vision issues, there are several routes one can take. A medication anti-allergy eye drop may be recommended or prescribed, such as over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops that can provide relief. Most of these have twice per day dosage. A prescription anti-allergy drop can also be prescribed for those who do not respond well to the over-the-counter medications. Some prescription medications can also be used in prevention of symptoms for those who experience seasonal allergies every year. However, timing is crucial. If someone typically experiences allergy symptoms starting in March, they could be well served by starting treatment in February.
Home remedies and lifestyle modifications may benefit patients with any severity of symptoms. These can include limiting exposure to allergens (i.e., staying indoors when pollen levels are high, or avoiding travel to locations with high levels of allergen). Practicing good hygiene and cleanliness can also vastly help alleviate systems. Frequent washing of hair, clothes, towels or bedding that may have been exposed to an allergen can keep allergens and pollen from getting “trapped” and building up, leading to continuous exposure. I also counsel patients to manage systemic allergy symptoms. Those with more significant sinus issues due to allergies also tend to have more significant eye and vision symptoms. Managing the sinus congestion can also minimize eye symptoms.
It doesn’t always seem like a natural inquiry when visiting with a patient, but ensuring we have a complete picture of their health will only benefit us as advocates of their vision health. This makes the annual eye exam a crucial check-in with the patient. The Think About Your Eyes campaign continuously reminds patients to schedule an annual eye exam, which will allow us to continue to assist in other health issues that may be impacting their vision health. O|O
Lindsay Berry, OD, is a member of the Texas Optometric Association and among the 22,000 doctors listed on the Think About Your Eyes online locator. Think About Your Eyes is a nationwide public awareness initiative promoting the importance of an annual eye exam and overall vision health. First Vision Media Group supports Think About Your Eyes as a media partner