Eye hydration is important for our eyes to stay healthy, function properly and not cause us major problems. Without our natural tears and blinking, our eyes would dry out in a matter of minutes. Blinking spreads our tears over the eyes to keep them lubricated. What happens, though, when there are excessive tears, or when it is accompanied with itching?
There is a possibility you could be having an allergic reaction or an infection. This article will cover the possible causes of itchy, watery eyes and treatments that can help with the conditions if it is, in fact, an allergic reaction.
Causes of Eye Allergies and Infections
There are many factors that can cause our eyes to water, turn red, itch, burn or sting. The most common of which are seasonal allergies, food-related allergic reactions and infections.
There are several eye infections that can cause the eye to turn red, become itchy, irritated or water excessively.
The most common eye infections are pink eye, or conjunctivitis, viral infections and fungal infections. These infections have a lot of different ways to enter the eye and cause symptoms. Most notably are from having contact with an infected person or environmental substances that is transferred to the eye through contact, such as wiping or rubbing the eye with your hand.
These infections can cause a host of symptoms, up to an including blindness. If you suspect you have an infection of the eye, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between an infection and an allergic reaction. Allergies cause more eye irritations than infections do and can be caused by a large variety of factors including food, environmental or physical contact.
Seasonal allergies are caused primarily by environmental factors such as dust, pollen, and pet dander.
Airborne particles, such as dust, can enter the mucous membranes and set off a chain reaction of allergic reactions. These reactions can cause eye irritation, inflammation and excessive watering.
Environmental factors tend to cause more itchy, watery eyes during the early fall or spring when plants, trees, and pets are making changes for the upcoming season. Plants pollinating produce more allergens during these times than any other.
While there may be specific plant or animal based allergies that can affect someone year-round, the vast majority of allergy sufferers will have flare ups during the spring and fall seasons.
Symptoms of Allergic Reactions
Allergies can cause many symptoms and will be slightly different for most people. Those that suffer allergies constantly will notice the symptoms sooner than those that may not be used to the reactions.
Most environmental allergies start by inhalation of the allergen into the mucous membranes. Either through the mouth or the nose. It is also possible to have eye irritants that set off the symptoms.
The sinus cavity is usually the first to respond by swelling and getting irritated. The inflammation can cause difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and itching around the area. The body will try to evacuate the allergens resulting in more saliva, more mucus, constant sneezing and runny noses.
In the eyes, however, tears that are our lubrication are also a cleanser. The eyes will water excessively to try and rid the area of the agitating allergen. If the allergy is severe, the eyes can grow bloodshot as a direct result of contact with the allergy-causing entity.
Rubbing the eyes relieves itching but also causes redness, swelling and can block the tear duct preventing the lubricating tears to do their job. This can lead to dry eye, swelling around the eyelids and more itching.
There is also a condition called epiphora, or excessive watering which can be a constant issue or intermittent one. When the eye is watering to the point of tears, you are most likely experiencing some form of epiphora.
Treatments for Allergen Eye Conditions
If you experience any of the common eye symptoms such as itching, red eyes, swelling, watery eyes or bloodshot eyes, you have several options for treatment.
First and foremost, if there is a pain, loss of sight, headaches, nausea or if you have trouble breathing, you should seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible.
If you know or believe your symptoms to be allergy related, you can try a few home remedies first.
A warm compress can draw out impurities in the eyes. Pressing a warm washcloth or towel to the affected eye can soothe pain, reduce swelling and will allow the eye to flush out anything that may be irritating. The warmth of the cloth will also draw pollens and impurities to the surface for easier removal.
You should leave the compress on for at least five minutes to ensure the tear ducts can work to clear the eye. Gently wipe but do not rub the eye and wash off thoroughly when complete. You can repeat the process as often as you need, just ensure the cloth is not so hot it causes burns or discomfort.
If you believe there is something physical in the eye you can wash it out under running water, or use an eye wash to flush the eye for about a minute. However, if the allergen is in the sinus or mucous membrane and the itchy, red eye, or watery eyes are caused from the reaction flushing and compresses aren’t going to do a lot to alleviate the conditions.
Over the counter, antihistamines can help to reduce symptoms as well. Products such as Benadryl and Claritin are designed to block the histamine from affecting the mucous membranes until the body can flush them out.
There are side effects to the over the counter drugs though, with the most common being sleepiness. If you decide to take an antihistamine you should read the entire label and ensure it is right for you. If you fear you may become sleepy, you should not drive or work until the effects wear off.
Itchy, watery eyes can also be aided by some over the counter eye drops. There are several companies that make and sell saline solution eye drops. When looking for the right eye drops you should be aware that there are several different types for different conditions. Some are medicated for various causes that may not be allergy related.
For more severe reactions you may need to see a doctor. The doctor will be able to determine the main cause of the red eyes, swelling, itching or other conditions. There may be prescription strength eye drops or allergy pills that they can prescribe for you.
If you do require a prescription, you should follow all instructions given to you by the doctor and on the label. If the prescription is for an oral medication you should ensure you take all of them to prevent a recurrence.
Recurrences of Symptoms
For severe allergies, seasonal allergies or allergies that are caused by an unknown source, recurrence is possible and likely.
Those that suffer seasonal allergies will know when the recurrence is taking place and can continue their regimen of treatments. Others, such as those that suffer allergies from animals, dander or specific items can best avoid the triggers to stay symptom-free.
This isn’t always a viable option, however, and you should have antihistamine medication or eye drops at the ready in case there is a sudden symptom onset. For those that do not know the root cause of the reactions, investigation and diligence are in order. Your doctor may even prescribe a scratch test to see if they can pinpoint the exact cause of the symptoms.
Allergy sufferers go through a wide range of symptoms. Depending on the cause and severity of the allergy, a visit to the doctor may be in order. When you suffer from allergies, you will notice side effects in and around the eyes.
These can include itchy, watery eyes, red eyes, swelling, burning or even loss of vision. You should attempt to ease the suffering when practical using a warm compress, eye drops or over the counter medication, if possible.
When the home remedies and over the counter options don’t work, or if you feel the reaction may be caused by an infection instead of an allergy, you should see out the advice of a medical professional. Ear, Nose and Throat physicians specialize in the cause and effects of allergies and will have the best course of action for you. In the event you can’t get in to see an ENT specialist, a general practitioner will also be of assistance.
Regardless of the root cause, itchy, watery eyes can be a nuisance and should be treated as soon as possible. When dealing with the eyes, you should avoid rubbing or scratching and try to pat with a clean cloth or towel gently.