Spring allergens taking a toll on eye health

Spring allergens taking a toll on eye health

While Tuesday, March 20th marks the official start of spring, a milder winter sparked an early round of spring eye allergies - triggered by pollen, dust and mold spores in the air.

Pam Woods of Lacassine says she always has to keep an eye on her allergies.  "Sometimes I feel like I could take my eyes out and scratch them and they'll feel better!" she said.

That relief is hard to come by for 20 percent of the United States population that is categorized as "allergy sufferers."  Woods is in that category and says her symptoms are all too common, "Itchy eyes, watery eyes, sneezing, constant sneezing," she said.

Does that sound familiar?  Optometrist Donavon Lefleur with The Eye Clinic says a spring that bloomed early is wreaking havoc on his patients with allergies.  "It's been really early this year since we had a really mild winter," said Dr. Lefleur, "we've seen lots of allergic conjunctivitis."

Here is what happens when an allergen, like pollen, comes in contact with your eyes: the little sacs inside your eyes' mast cells blast your blood stream with histamine - a chemical that causes the inflammation.

Over-the-counter eye drops can give you some instant soothing.  "Put an artificial tear in, sometimes it helps with immediate relief to kind of wash out the allergens and the histamine chemical," said Dr. Lefleur.

In more severe cases, prescription drops that have anti-histamines and mast cell stabilizers are used. These drops are different than over-the-counter, because they help to keep the histamine chemicals from being released.

Now that spring has sprung, Woods says she will have to be disciplined about her allergy regime, knowing that the army of outside allergens won't be leaving anytime soon.  "It's the trees, shrubs, plants, household dust...all the things that you can't get away from!" she said.

A good tip if pollen really aggravates your allergies is to check your local pollen count.  This could be done online and even through some of the forecasts here on KPLC 7News. When the number is high, try to stay inside...or have anti-histamines handy!

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