When Mrs Suhasini Dasgupta’s son complained of itchy and red eyes, she knew something was wrong. She took her son to one of the best eye hospitals in Kolkata and consulted a paediatric eye doctor. The eye doctor told her that her son was suffering from allergic conjunctivitis – an eye condition that causes red, watery and itchy eyes. He explained to her that “our immune system (for instance antibodies) helps the body fight off infection-causing germs. Allergic diseases occur when the body’s immune system responds to harmless substances like dust or pollen.” The eye doctor also recommended her to visit an allergist who can run a couple of skin and blood tests to help identify the specific allergen(s).
Allergic conjunctivitis is fairly common and like Mrs Dasgupta’s son, there are many kids who suffer from different types of eye allergies such as Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis and Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis.
Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis – occurs due to allergic reaction to:
- Seasonal changes (for instance, when the pollen count is high) – if the eye allergy is accompanied by sneezing, nasal congestion and fever, there are high chances that the allergy is seasonal.
- Red or pink eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Blurred vision
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Photophobia (discomfort due to bright light)
- Foreign body sensation ( a feeling of something being stuck in the eyes)
- Excessive tearing
- Swollen eyes
Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis – strongly linked to Atopic Dermatitis (eczema) and usually affects both the eyes.
- Itchy eyes
- Blurred vision
- Burning sensation
- Thick mucous discharge from the eyes
If Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis is not treated on time, it can scar the cornea. It often affects people when they are in the age group between their late teenage years and their fifties.
Other Allergic Conjunctivitis
If your child wears contact lenses, he/she is at higher risk of developing a mild type of allergy known as contact allergic conjunctivitis. In such cases, your kid will be advised to temporarily stop wearing the lenses until the signs resolve. However, if your child is complaining of blurred vision, itchy eyes, foreign body sensation, red eyes and mucus discharge, then it’s giant papillary conjunctivitis – a severe form of contact allergic conjunctivitis.
Prevention and Management
- When outdoors, your child must wear glasses or sunglasses to prevent exposure from dust, mold, or pollen.
- Reduce their exposure to dust mites
- Don’t let them rub their eyes as it may aggravate the condition
- To limit their exposure to mold, keep the humidity of your home at a lower level.
- Clean your home regularly and do the cleaning/ dusting when your kid is not around.
- Rinse the eyes with cold water.
If prevention and management of the allergy does not improve the condition, visit a Paediatric eye doctor at the earliest. The doctor may prescribe allergy eye drops to your child. These clean the allergens out of the eyes, thus reducing any further inflammation. Your child needs to use these drops regularly every day. Even when your child starts feeling better, he/she mustn’t stop using them unless your Paediatric eye doctor advises doing so. It’s because stopping to apply the eye drops suddenly may cause the problem to return or even cause eye damage.