Not to scratch when it itches!

Many people complain that their eyes itch a lot, with watering & redness. It recurs again & again every year, despite the treatment taken. And I have only one answer for it ‘if it is itching, it is most probably allergy. But please do not scratch or rub your eyes. ‘

Before we understand about allergy, we must understand what our immune system is. Immunity or immune system is protective mechanism in our body to fight bad organism or cells, like bacteria, viruses, fungi or even cancer cells. Immune system attacks only those cells which are not part of our normal body. Now this system is very complicated, but you should remember everything takes part in fight of our body against these bad guys. Our intact skin, white blood cells present in our blood as well as organs, some fluids like complement system & individual organ secreting some active ingredients like Prostraglandins or interlukins etc, all of these participate in protecting every part of our body.

But sometimes this immune system deviates from ‘normal’ and cause some problems. If the deviation is little it causes allergy , if it is more, it can cause auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis etc. As I have said, immune system is very complex system with multiple cycles going on in many different cells. So explaining everything here is not possible. Even allergy is of different types. It can as simple as itching over skin, in eyes or it can be life threatening like Anaphylaxis. We will restrict ourselves here for mild allergy and that too in the eye.

Now how to say one has allergic eye disease or not?

When your eye is itchy, watery or it becomes red when exposed to dust, then you can say it can be allergy. This is typically seen after exposure to something like after cleaning home or dust exposure on two wheeler etc. This can be seasonal also. Some people have issue in windy, dry, dusty environment of summer or some will have issue in damp, rainy season when congress grass is abundantly growing in our backyard. So whenever you are suspecting you are having allergy, first recognise your season or cause. Some people have this throughout the year then reasons can be a pet in house (like pet’s hair or dander), some dusty, unclean room or carpet. Many a times it is difficult to find any reason.

In allergic eye disease we get redness, watering, itching in the eye, ropy discharge from eyes, papillary reaction in eye causing foreign body sensation & sometimes eye lid swelling.


Why it is important to find reason for eye allergy? –

As protection of eye from allergen (allergy causing agent) is work half done. If you protect yourself from this allergen, you will have less trouble. If you have allergy to dust, wearing protective goggles while going out or washing of eyes with drinking water after coming home will reduce severity & frequency of occurrence of allergy. If you are allergic to congress grass, preventing its occurrence in backyard or good ventilation or sunlight exposure of damp room should reduce the problem.

But what if despite taking all precautions we get the symptoms?

Then better to visit your ophthalmologist and take treatment. Remember few points

1) Whenever we are treating allergy, we are not treating basic cause of allergy i.e. your immunity. It is very difficult to treat immune system. Though it can be done through maintaining good life style and avoiding allergen exposure over long period of time.

2) Whenever we ‘treat’ allergy, we are just controlling the symptoms of allergy like itching, redness, foreign body sensation etc. As soon as treatment is stopped but allergen exposure continues, we will have recurrence of symptoms. So you need to visit your ophthalmologist regularly. Even with advent of medicine we are still waiting for that magic drug which will cure allergy in one tablet (in near future also not seems to be possible).

3) Please do not rub eye, they can increase myopia (spectacle number in minus) or in worst case scenario, can cause damage to cornea (transparent layer in front of eye) and cause keratoconus (gradual conical projection of cornea

4) Allergy in eye is mostly associated with allergy at other areas also.

– Some people will have recurrent sneezing – allergic rhinitis

– Some can have skin itching, rash – skin allergy

– Some have cough, wheezing & breathlessness – allergic bronchitis or asthma

Controlling these conditions is equally important as treating eye allergy. If other allergy worsens eye allergy is going to increase and vice a versa. Therefore allergy treatment is multidisciplinary treatment (all specialists like pulmonologist, physician, dermatologist and ophthalmologists needs to work together)

5) Remember, all our drugs used in treatment of allergy are having some or more side effects so never use them without doctor’s advice or proper follow up. These are your eyes, you need to protect them, care for them and prevent any damage.

In the end my advice will be –

Allergy is disease of whole body, so having healthy lifestyle, good exercise, good food will help you to overcome it over the period of few years. Protect your eye from allergen, don’t rub them and please visit your ophthalmologist frequently as treatment at once in not possible.

Hope this article helped you understand about itchy eyes.


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