Allergies and Your Eyes in the Willamette Valley

By W. Benjamin Kunz, M.D.

In the Willamette Valley, one of the most common complaints I hear from my patients is that they have itchy, burning and watery eyes. Due to allergens in the area, allergic eye disease is abundant. The symptoms range from mild to very severe, and the treatment is varied. Most patients can control symptoms with seasonal over-the-counter eye drops, but often, there are other effects from allergies. The inflammation caused by allergies can also lead to damage to the tear producing cells on the surface of the eye and eyelids. Special oil glands in the eyelids can become dysfunctional or clogged due to this inflammation, which can lead to significantly dry eyes and worsening inflammation. When managed in concert, these symptoms can usually be controlled and impact on daily life can be minimized.

Due to the green environment in Oregon, allergies can be a problem for some patients for most of the year. This can lead to eyes that are chronically red, burning, or tired, and often, vision can be blurry after extended reading or screen time. Minimizing allergy inflammation is important, but rehabilitating the tear quality and reducing tear evaporation can also make a significant difference!

I have been asked about allergy shots and their effect on ocular allergies. They certainly can help minimize symptoms for the eyes, but the process can take time to take effect. Often, treatment is performed to help reduce symptoms for the following season or year. Additionally, further treatment still may be needed to control eye symptoms.

Overall, most patients can find significant relief from day-to-day symptoms with the right combination of treatment. Ask your eye care provider for more information if you have any of these symptoms.