Allergies affecting the eye are fairly common. Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation or irritation of the clear mucous membrane lining the inner eyelids and sclera called the conjunctiva.

This condition, which can be seasonal or yearlong, is caused by external allergens and is not contagious. The seasonal form of allergic conjunctivitis is more common and is associated with pollen, grass, and other airborne allergens, particularly during the spring and summer. Yearlong allergies on the other hand, are generally triggered by indoor allergens, such as animal dander, mold spores, and dust. An increasing number of eye allergy cases are related to medications, contact lens wear, and certain cosmetics.


Symptoms can include redness, itching, tearing, burning, stinging, foreign body sensation, watery discharge, blurry vision, and swollen eyelids, although they are not usually severe enough to require medical attention. Allergy symptoms are usually temporary and can be eliminated by avoiding contact with the offending cosmetic or detergent.


The diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis is generally made clinically. Occasionally, skin tests or blood tests may be required for exact diagnosis in some patients.


Treatment might include cold compresses, artificial tears and a variety of topical medications. Antihistamine decongestant eye drops can effectively reduce symptoms. Some patients may require ointments used in the treatment of eczema. Medications by mouth may be needed in patients with severe involvement including the cornea.