Is this an infection or allergies?

Q:  My eyes are swollen, itchy, and tearing a lot.  The last couple of days it even feels like my eyelids are getting stuck together in the mornings.  Is this an infection or allergies?  I’ve never had allergies before.

A:  It definitely sounds like you are having allergic eye symptoms. 

Most allergy suffers are advised to “avoid the allergen” which is easier said than done.  There would be nothing nicer than to write a prescription to move to a different location (Hawaii, Arizona all sound nice) but this is not possible in most cases and we need to keep working, going to school etc in the same environment that the allergens are in.

Cold compresses help stabilize the mast cells which are releasing histamine.  Histamine causes the itching and swelling which the cold compresses help to soothe (scratching and rubbing your eyes aggravate the mast cells to secrete even more histamine and you create a cascade effect).

Oral anti-histamines are great if you have other allergy symptoms such as sinus congestion, however be aware that they do dehydrate all the mucous membranes and it is important to drink lots of water (otherwise you can end up with dry eye symptoms and general dehydration).  If you only have eye symptoms, then consult your optometrist for the best prescription drop for the symptoms you are experiencing (Patanol, Zaditor, Alrex are some examples).  Localizing the anti-histamine directly to the eyes reduces the systemic effect of an oral anti-histamine and is generally appreciate by those that only have eye symptoms.

Look for red, swollen eyes (especially under the eyes) in children as well.  Many of the kids playing outdoor sports where they are sitting on grass (soccer, football, baseball) exposes them to possible allergens which may only last for a few hours after the practice/game.  Using cold compresses and not rubbing their eyes will be helpful.  If the symptoms are severe enough, several of the prescription anti-allergy drops are safe to use (down to age 3).

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Dr. Patricia Fink

OPTOMETRIST

Millcroft Shopping Centre
2080 Appleby Line, Unit E6
Burlington, Ontario, L7L6M6
Tel: (905) 319-1066