Frequently Asked Questions
You have an allergic reaction when your body overreacts to substances
(allergens), which ordinarily are harmless. The body of an allergic person
mistakes these harmless substances for dangerous "foreign invaders". It
tries too hard to destroy them by releasing defense chemicals (histamine,
etc). The chemicals cause itching, redness, burning, tearing and watery
eye discharge (allergic conjunctivitis). The most common allergens are
pollen, dust and animal dander.
I think I may be allergic to my contact lenses.
Contact lens material does not cause allergic reactions. However, after
prolonged use, contact lenses become coated by mucus-like material. Wearers
may develop allergy to the mucus-like material. That is one reason why
you should keep your lenses scrupulously clean. Frequent cleaning will
reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions. Still, cleaning does not
remove all the coating and development of allergy remains a possibility.
In such a case, you may need to change to disposable lenses.
How can I minimize the frequency of allergic attacks?
To reduce your exposure to allergens:
- Wash your hands, face and hair frequently to
rid them of allergens.
- Use air filters indoors and vacuum regularly.
- Avoid outdoors when pollen count is high.
- Close windows and doors to keep allergens out.
- Wash bedding regularly.
- Use allergen barriers on pillows and mattresses
(barrier pillowcases and mattress cases)
How can I reduce severity of allergic eye irritation?
- Apply cool compresses to the eyelids for 15
minutes several times a day, when symptoms are at its worst.
- Use non-prescription artificial tears (GenTeal,
Refresh Tears, etc.) several times a day to wash out allergens (may
be used hourly). Preservative-free artificial tears may be necessary
in some cases.
- Do not rub your eyes; it may introduce more
allergen into the eye.
- Non-prescription antihistamine and decongestants
(Naphcon-A, Opcon-A, OcuHist, Visine etc) may be used occasionally for
relief of symptoms. They are not to be used for long-term treatment.
They should not be used by patients with narrow angle glaucoma.
- Use prescribed medication.
Remember that eye irritation is not always allergic. It may also be caused
by infection and conditions of excessive tearing and by dry eyes. If you
have prolonged discomfort, you should make an appointment to be seen.