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Allergies, Your Eyes, and Eye Drops

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Have you ever wondered how to get relief from itchy, dry, or red eyes?

Springtime brings warmer, brighter days…and often, allergies. This year is no exception. You may suffer from itchy eyes caused by an increase in pollen in the air (or other irritants, such as pet dander). Eye drops may provide relief!

Over-the-counter eye drops such as Opcon-A and Naphcon-A may help reduce itchiness and redness caused by allergies. Note that many of these drops contain both antihistamines and decongestants. If you have glaucoma, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or an enlarged prostate, you should avoid decongestants. Also, decongestants in eye drops, which reduce redness by constricting blood vessels, can cause a “red-eye rebound effect.” This results in increased eye redness for days. If possible, avoid eye drops that say “redness reliever” on the bottle. As an alternative, you can try antihistamine-only drops such as Alaway, Pataday, or Zaditor.

If you suffer from dry eyes, you can use moisturizing and lubricating “artificial tears” drops. Over-the-counter options include Retaine, Refresh or Systane. Preservative-free formulations are preferred. You may find that refrigerating artificial tears may be soothing to the eyes and may also reduce allergy-related itching. The cool temperature of the eye drops can reduce red-eyes by constricting blood vessels without the rebound effect of decongestants.

To get these drops into your eye easily, try pulling your lower eyelid down while you tilt your head back and apply the drops, then close your eyes for a few seconds. To avoid contamination and the potential for infection, never touch the tip of the bottle to your eye or your fingers. If you wear contact lenses, wait 10 minutes after applying eye drops before you put the lenses in.

If over-the-counter eye drops don’t help, or if you have other eye issues, you should come in to see one of our optometrists. You may need prescription eye drops, or, you may need to be treated for another problem such as an eye infection.

We hope this helps you better understand your eye drop options! If you have severe allergies, talk to your doctor about oral antihistamines or anti-inflammatories.

Schedule an eye exam at Acuity Vision Optometry Boutique to maintain your eye health and discuss options that are right for you! Call 415-673-2020 or click here to make an appointment.

Yours in wellness and in health,
Dr. Lyndi Schmidt
Founder, Acuity Vision Optometry Boutique


Written by Dr. Lyndi Fandino Schmidt

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