Spring and summer means allergy season for many of us: seasonal allergic rhinitis or hayfever affects about 20 per cent of the population and common symptoms include itchy, red, dry, or watery eyes.
What causes eyes to react?
We have receptor cells called mast cells on the mucous membrane covering the white surface of our eye and the inner lining of the eyelids. When we come in contact with an allergen, it binds to the mast cells which releases a chemical called histamine that stimulates the nerves in the eye to make it itchy and watery. This is our body’s way of trying to remove the allergen. Histamine also causes dilation of the blood vessels on the eye and makes your eyes red.
But be careful. Eye rubbing causes more histamine to be released and increases itching and the urge to rub.
We do know that people with keratoconus tend to have a higher incidence of eye allergies. Eye-rubbing can aggravate keratoconus.
What is keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye disease that affects the cornea. Instead of being a round shape, the cornea becomes structurally weakened and becomes cone-shaped. Images therefore become distorted or blurred. Common symptoms of keratoconus include ghosting, multiple images, glare, halos, starbursts around lights and blurred vision.
The cause of keratoconus is unclear, but it is most prevalent in those who are near-sighted. Some research indicates a correlation between keratoconus and itchy eyes; keratoconus tends to affect those with allergies more often, making the urge to rub eyes almost irresistible. Although it is not proven that eye rubbing can cause or worsen keratoconus, it is a good idea to keep from rubbing the front of your eye as this will only make your eyes feel worse.
How to spot keratoconus
If you have any sudden changes in sight, such as darkening around the edges of your vision, dark spots in front of your eyes, halos around bright lights, a loss of vision in one part of your field of sight or any other noticeable change, you should see our eye care professionals at John O’Connor Optometrists immediately.
Regular eye examinations are a must. Keratoconus and itchy eyes can go hand in hand. Eye tests ensure our optometrists has a chance to detect any conditions like keratoconus before they become a bigger problem. Even if you suspect your eyes are uncomfortable as a result of seasonal allergies, be sure to book an appointment with your John O’Connor optometrist just to make sure the itchiness is not caused by keratoconus. Email our Auckland Optometrists or phone Newmarket Optometrist 09 522 1283 and Henderson Optometrist on 09 836 1731 to get an appointment.