Allergic conjunctivitis

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There are broadly three different types of allergic conjunctivitis:

  • Hay fever conjunctivitis
  • Vernal conjunctivitis
  • Atopic conjunctivitis

In all three there may be other forms of allergic sensitivity in the form of asthma and eczema – so called “Atopy”

Symptoms

The universal symptom is of itching, associated with redness and a watery discharge. Hay fever occurs seasonally in susceptible individuals and is triggered by pollen. Another similar form may be associated with house dust mite. There is an associated nasal discharge and nasal obstruction.

Vernal conjunctivitis is a more severe chronic form of conjunctivitis, which affects the younger age group and boys in particular. There is more of a mucus discharge and both the lids and the cornea and front of the eye can become involved. Typically the disease “burns out” and resolves in early adulthood.

Atopic conjunctivitis occurs in association with periocular eczema and involvement of the skin elsewhere. The cornea can become affected as well. There is a risk of secondary infection of the cornea with bacteria and herpes virus.

Treatment

Simple treatment with Zaditen drops (over the counter), or Patanol drops, which are very effective. These drugs stabilize the cells responsible for the inflammatory response. The itching and redness usually settles within a matter of hours.

The more severe forms of allergic conjunctivitis may require the addition of steroid drops, which require the supervision of an ophthalmologist. Rarely, a local injection of steroid is required.