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Eye Allergies - What are They and What Causes Them?

Eye allergy (allergic conjunctivitis) is an inflammation of the eye caused by contact with allergens such as pollen, mould, dust mites or pet dander.

Illustration of a red eye with pollen particles in the surround air

Symptoms

Red, itchy, swollen and watery eyes, which can be accompanied by a stinging or burning sensation. Your eyes may feel gritty as if sand is caught under your eyelid and your vision may be temporarily blurred. In addition, you may experience a runny or itchy nose, sneezing, coughing or headaches.

Image of a woman outside blowing on a dandilion

Causes

Eye allergy results from the body’s immune system fighting against material, typically not harmful, that it does not recognise. This is also known as a hypersensitivity reaction. Allergens, the materials that the body is hypersensitive to, get into your eyes causing your body to release chemicals called histamines, which cause inflammation.

Identify and avoid contact with the allergen. If you wear contact lenses and come into contact with a known allergen, remove your lenses. It might be beneficial to also use an eye bath available from the pharmacy or your optician, or even lubricating eye drops may help. If symptoms persist, talk to your GP or optician about treatment, this may be an over-the-counter or prescription treatment.

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