This column is sponsored by Warren Eye Care

With spring comes more outdoor activities, and more allergies.  I’ve seen the typical increase in patients seeking relief from both their seasonal eye allergies, and contact lens wearing patients who are looking to improve or restore their contact lens comfort and quality of vision.

When the tree pollen count starts to go up, patients start having problems with itchy, watery, burning  and red eyes.  Some people are able manage their symptoms with oral over the counter medications, but many don’t achieve the relief that they desire.  For those patients I usually will prescribe eye drops that block the action of the histamine that the body releases when it encounters allergens.  My most common type of eye drops used also contains a medication that also blocks the release of the histamine, so it’s a 1,2 punch.  Reducing the amount of histamine on the eye as well as blocking the effect of the histamine that is already released, reducing the itching, watering, redness and burning symptoms.

For patients with more severe allergies and with more ocular inflammation, its often necessary to quiet the eye down with a topical steroid eye drop before or as well as using one of the eye drops mentioned earlier.  This not only makes the eye feel better, it blocks the eyes own immune response and allows the other medications to “catch up” to the allergies and then get ahead.  Once this happens, the steroid eye drops can then be stopped.  How strong of a steroid to use, how often to use it and for how long are all determined by several factors.  There’s no “one size fits every allergy problem” approach.

Contact lens wearers often times suffer from seasonal allergies and suffer more acute symptoms than non-contact lens wearers.  Its very important that contact lens patients take very good care of their lenses to reduce their allergy symptoms.   A good first start is being sure that they clean their lenses every day after removal.  Just taking lenses out and putting them into solution isn’t sufficient, throughout the year, but especially in the spring and summer.  Its also very important that lenses be replaced as designed.  Daily, two week and monthly replacement lenses are all designed for a specific life span.  Using lenses longer than they are designed for increases the chances of complications throughout the year but especially during the allergy season.

So, if over the counter treatments aren’t getting the job done, don’t suffer, see your eye doctor to minimize your symptoms and maximize your eye health!

John Warren, OD

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.