Allergy Treatment: Treatment: Allergy Eye Drops
Allergy eyedrops are liquid medicines used to treat symptoms of eye allergies. Eyeallergy symptoms include:
- burning of the eye
- feeling like something is in the eye
- itchy eyes
- red (bloodshot) eyes
- swelling of the eyelid
An eye allergy is linked to the same kinds of triggers that cause hay fever, such as:
- pet dander
Eye allergies may also be triggered by certain medications or by wearing contact lenses.
Types of Allergy Eyedrops
If you have symptoms of eye allergies, ask your health care provider if eyedrops are right for you. Your doctor may first suggest you take these steps:
- use artificial tears
- place a cold cloth on the eyes
- avoid your allergy triggers
Which type of allergy eyedrop you use depends on:
- the cause of your allergy
- your specific symptoms
- how much the symptoms affect daily activities
Not all allergy eyedrops treat all allergy symptoms. For example, an eyedrop that relieves red (bloodshot) eyes may not stop the itching.
There are many different types of allergy eyedrops. Some are sold over the counter while others require a prescription from a doctor. Some relieve symptoms quickly. Others provide long-term relief.
The types of allergy eyedrops include:
- mast cell stabilizers
- multiple action
Antihistamine Allergy Eyedrops
If you have itchy, watery eyes, antihistamine eyedrops may make you feel better. These medicines block histamine buildup in the body. Histamine is a chemical made by your immune system when you come in contact with an allergy trigger. It causes many of your allergy symptoms.
Antihistamine eyedrops are usually recommended as the first treatment for eye allergies after you have tried non-drug methods at home.
Antihistamine eyedrops can quickly relieve eye allergy symptoms. But relief may only last for a few hours. You may need to use the drops several times a day.
Prescription antihistamine eyedrops include:
- Emadine (emedastine difumarate)
- Livostin (levocabastine)
- Optivar (azelastine hydrochloride)
Anti-inflammatory Allergy Eyedrops
Anti-inflammatory eyedrops fall into two groups:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAID eyedrops affect certain nerve endings. They change the way your body makes you feel itchy.
Acular/Acuvail (ketorolac) is the only NSAID approved for the treatment of itchy eyes. Itchingusually starts to go away about one hour after using the eyedrops. These eyedrops often cause stinging or burning when first placed in the eyes.
Corticosteroid eyedrops are used to treat severe, long-term eye allergy symptoms. Prescription steroid eyedrops include Alrex and Lotemax (loteprednol).
Because of possible side effects, corticosteroid drops are not generally recommended for long-term use, except for the most severe allergic eye conditions.
When you are using corticosteroid eyedrops, you should have regular checkups with an eye specialist to monitor your eye health. Corticosteroid eyedrops can raise your risk for:
- Eye infection
- Increased pressure in the eye (elevated intraocular pressure)
Decongestant Allergy Eyedrops
Decongestant eyedrops can quickly brighten the whites of your eyes and reduce eye redness for a short amount of time. Such medicines are also called vasoconstrictors. They work by narrowing blood vessels in the eye area. This relieves the red, bloodshot appearance of the eyes.
These eyedrops are widely available without a prescription. But doctors don’t recommend them for treating eye allergies. Studies show decongestant eyedrops do not specifically affect the series of events involved in an allergic reaction.
Examples of over-the-counter decongestant eyedrops are:
- Clear Eyes (naphazoline HCL)
- Refresh (phenylephrine HCL)
- Visine (tetrahydrozoline HCL, oxymetazoline HCL)
Decongestant eyedrops come with some risks. Long-term use can actually make your eye problem worse. “Rebound redness” is a common problem in people who use decongestant drops for a long time. Redness and eye swelling can continue even when you stop using the drops.
Decongestant (vasoconstrictor) eyedrops should never be used by people with glaucoma.
Mast Cell Stabilizer Allergy Eyedrops
Mast cell stabilizers are among the newest type of eyedrops. They target events in the body that lead to allergy symptoms.
The medicine helps prevent the release of histamine and other chemicals made by your body during an allergic reaction.
Mast cell stabilizers do not provide immediate relief of eye allergy symptoms. Instead, they are used to prevent eye allergy symptoms in people with known allergies, including seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.
You may be able to use these drops for many months without any side effects. Mast cell stabilizers have been shown to help contact lens users wear their lenses for longer periods of time.
Over-the-counter mast cell stabilizer drops include:
- Claritin Eye (ketotifen fumarate)
- Refresh Eye Itch Relief (ketotifen fumarate)
Prescription mast cell stabilizer eye drops include:
- Alamast (pemirolast potassium)
- Alocril (nedocromil sodium)
- Alomide (lodoxamide)
- Crolom (cromolyn)
Multiple-Action Allergy Eyedrops
Some eyedrops contain more than one type of active ingredient. These are called dual-action or multiple-action eyedrops.
Antihistamine/decongestant combination eyedrops reduce eye itching, watery eyes, and redness. Examples include:
- Opcon-A and Naphcon-A (pheniramine maleate/naphazoline HCL)
- Vasocon-A (antazoline phosphate/naphazoline HCL)
Antihistamine/mast cell stabilizer combination eyedrops treat and prevent:
- eye itching
These newer eyedrops are especially helpful for people with a condition called allergic conjunctivitis. Examples include:
- Elestat (epinastine)
- Patanol/Pataday (olopatadine hydrochloride)
- Zaditor, Alaway (ketotifen)
Eye Drops for Dry Eyes
Lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, can provide relief for short-term dry eyes, when the cause is related to temporary circumstances such as computer eye strain, being outdoors in windy and sunny conditions, and tiredness.
Most OTC lubricating eye drops work by adding various tear elements that are in your eyes already, to supplement your natural tears and make your eyes more moist and comfortable.
It’s best to avoid decongestant eye drops for dry eye. You’ll recognize a decongestant eye drop because it’s typically advertised as relief for red eyes.
Decongestants make your eyes look less red, but they also can worsen dry eye symptoms in the long run.
If your dry eye problems are long-term, you may need to use a gel or ointment. Because gels and ointments for dry eyes can cause blurry vision for a while after you put them in your eyes, most people use them just before going to sleep.
If OTC eye drops or ointments don’t do the job, prescription eye drops and ointments and additional dry eye treatments such as punctal plugsare available from your doctor.
Eye Drops for Redness
Decongestant eye drops, or whitening eye drops, contain vasoconstrictors which eliminate red eyes by shrinking the tiny blood vessels on the white part of your eyes (sclera), making them less visible.
While decongestant eye drops are effective at getting rid of redness, be mindful that they can mask a potentially serious underlying problem. It’s always best to first consult with your eye doctor to identify the cause of your red eyes.
Decongestant eye drops can cause dryness and irritation, dilated pupils and other adverse effects if they are used too often.
Also, your eyes can develop a tolerance to the eye-whitening effect of these drops, and even greater redness (called rebound hyperemia) can occur when the effect of the drops wears off, forcing you to use them more and more.
If your eyes are red from tiredness, dryness, lack of sleep or general irritation, I suggest you try an OTC lubricating eye drop for relief.
If your eyes are red from allergies, lubricating drops also can help considerably by washing what you’re allergic to — such as pollen — out of your eyes.
Handy Device Helps Get Eye Drops in Your Eyes — Instead of All Over Your Face!
January 2015 — The DROPin Eye Drop Assist is a simple plastic device that helps position the tip of an eye drops bottle over your eye, for easier instillation of artificial tears, glaucoma medications and contact lens wetting solutions.
You just remove the cap of the eye drops bottle, place it through the hole of the DROPin and bring the device to your face with the end cupped around your nose. Making sure the drop tip is centered over your eye, lean back and squeeze the bottle to apply a drop. Since it takes only one hand to position the DROPin, you can use the other hand to hold open the eye or lower the eyelid.
The DROPin also helps ensure that the bottle tip doesn’t touch the eye, for less chance of contamination. And in many cases, you can simply place the bottle cap back on with the DROPin device still in place, so it’s ready to go the next time you need a drop.
The device is available on Amazon and at some eye care practices. — L.S.
Eye Drops for Allergies and Eye Itching
Antihistamine eye drops are specifically formulated to treat itching due to allergies. Allergy eye drops work by reducing histamine in the eye tissues.
Allergies can cause eye symptoms such as itchiness, redness, wateriness and puffy, swollen eyes, for which OTC antihistamine eye drops also may be useful.
Some decongestant eye drops for red eye also have antihistamines in them. They’re labeled as treatments for itching due to allergy, but I don’t recommend you use a decongestant eye drop long-term (see eye drops for redness above).
If the itching is severe and doesn’t improve with OTC treatments, it’s best to see an eye doctor for prescription eye drops and/or oral medications.
Eye Drops for Soreness, Swelling or Discharge
Before you consider using eye drops for soreness, it’s essential to determine the underlying cause.
Usually eyes become sore because they’re dry, strained, tired or just plain overused. But if your eyes are sore a lot, you should have an eye exam to see if your vision needs correcting for nearsightedness,farsightedness, astigmatism or presbyopia.
Lubricating eye drops may provide relief for eye irritation from visual stresses such as crying, eye discharge related to allergies and swelling from inflammation and allergies.
However, “mattering” or thick, yellowish eye discharge caused by an eye infection may require prescription antibiotic eye drops.
Eye Drops for “Pink Eye” and Other Infections
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is one of the most common types of eye infection. The term “pink eye” is a catch-all for several different types of conjunctivitis.
Different types of eye drops may be required for the various types of conjunctivitis, so it’s important to visit your eye doctor to determine the proper treatment:
- Bacterial conjunctivitis usually makes your eyes really red and sore, with a thick, yellow, sticky discharge. Bacterial eye infections should be treated with prescription eye drops from your doctor.
- Viral conjunctivitis is contagious. Some viral types of pink eye go away on their own, but the severe kind will cause red, watery, sore eyes, along with a clear or whitish eye discharge. You may also have blurred vision.
If you have viral conjunctivitis, OTC lubricating eye drops can make your eyes feel better, as can cold compresses or ice packs. But if symptoms grow worse, you should see your eye doctor for additional treatment.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is the most common cause of eye redness and usually causes itching, swollen eyelids and watery, bloodshot eyes. Allergic pink eye is not contagious.
Over-the-counter lubricating and antihistamine eye drops can provide relief in most cases. Taking OTC antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Claritin or Benadryl also can help.
If symptoms are severe, your eye doctor may need to prescribe stronger eye drops or oral medications.
If you’re using an eye drop to relieve symptoms of eye infection, never touch the end of the bottle to your eye. You could contaminate the bottle, which could spread infection.
Eye Drops and Contact Lenses
Rewetting drops are specifically formulated for contact lenses and can provide relief for dry eyes and discomfort associated with contact lens wear.
If you choose to use regular OTC lubricating eye drops while wearing contacts, check with your eye care practitioner to see if your contact lens type is compatible with the eye drop you’re considering.
Unlike rewetting drops, many eye drops — OTC or prescription — are not intended for contact lens wearers, and you may need to remove your lenses before applying the drops to your eyes.
HOW TO USE EYE DROPS
It’s actually quite easy to use eye drops, but many people don’t know how.
Just follow these basic steps:
- Tilt back your head, so the drops stay in your eye.
- Gently tug or pull out the lower eyelid near your nose to form a well.
- Keep your eye open.
- Hold the bottle far enough away from your eye that it doesn’t touch, and then squeeze.
- Shut your eye for a moment, then blink several times to distribute the eye drop.
- Follow these same steps for eye ointments, and don’t let the tip of the tube touch any part of your eye.