The surface of the eye is one of the areas of the human body most susceptible to environmental allergies and early Spring is one of the peak allergy seasons. Often, when we see a patient who comes in believing (understandably) that they have an eye infection we find the true culprit to be an ocular allergy. Since a true infectious, bacterial conjunctivitis and an allergic conjunctivitis both result in significant redness and discharge from the eye they can be easily confused. However, there are symptoms and findings which can help differentiate these entities; usually allergies will have:
- prominent itching, infections less so,
- discharge in an allergy is more likely to be clear and less thick than the colored, thicker discharge seen in an infection.
There are also several different appearances to the eye that your doctor may notice via careful examination of your eyes with a microscope. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis affects about 20% of the U.S. population.
Why is the eye so reactive? The ocular surface contains over 50 million mast cells, these cells are the body’s early warning system and once they are activated by something you are allergic to they release a cascade of chemicals including histamines, which are responsible for most allergic symptoms.
Treatment for the ocular symptoms of seasonal allergies can involve the use of prescription eye drops and cold compresses. If you use oral allergy medications you should continue to use those as well. We also recommend monitoring air quality, trying to avoid extensive periods outdoors and keeping windows shut when the air quality is particularly poor. As a service to our patients we have added a link to this air quality index tool from Weatherbug.com to assist you in monitoring air quality.
Even while we enjoy the warmer weather and blooms of Spring we understand that, for many, this is a season that also brings with it some discomfort. At our four Chicago Eye Doctors at Pearle Vision eye care centers (Lincoln Park / DePaul, Old Town, Six Corners/Portage Park and Melrose Park) we are ready to help with the wide variety of eye care challenges our patients face.
One of the more common conditions seen in our Chicago Eye Doctor-Pearle Vision clinics is what people refer to as “pink eye”. However, the vast majority of patients who come in because they believe they have pink eye may not actually be suffering from that condition.
Classic pink eye refers to a bacterial infection of the outer layer (the conjunctiva) of the eye. The symptoms may include a mucous discharge (usually colored), redness of the eye and swelling of lids and of the white of the eye.
A few other conditions can mimic this presentation and more often than not, it is one of these conditions that are actually the cause:
- Viral conjunctivitis
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Inflammatory conjunctivitis
There are several factors that can help us differentiate all of these conditions such as the nature of the discharge, patient history-in particular the nature of the onset and other associated symptoms (burning or itching), light sensitivity, presence in one eye vs. both and most importantly the appearance of the eye on examination with a microscope.
All of this information will help develop an appropriate treatment plan guided towards the correct causative agent.
It’s a question we hear frequently at our Pearle Vision locations in Chicago and Melrose Park.
Dr. Spencer Vidulich optometrist the Riverpoint Center Pearle Vision says, “glasses will do one thing, help you see more clearly. If your child needs glasses to see the board or to help with reading they really should have them, the glasses won’t make the child’s eyes worse. One change that does occur is that, as a person gets used to seeing better the brain resets it’s idea of what “clear” vision is, a process called perceptual adaptation.”
It’s also important to realize that the connection of the eye to the brain is still forming for several years after birth, if a child is coping with blurred vision during this time without corrective lenses, irreversible vision damage can possibly occur. Amblyopia, a condition in which an eye cannot see better than 20/25 visual acuity even with glasses and in which no eye disease is present can result from not wearing corrective lenses during this critical developmental period.