Allergic conjunctivitis: Overview & Causes

Alternate Names : Conjunctivitis – allergic

Definition

Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the tissue lining the eyelids (conjuctiva) due to a reaction from allergy-causing substances such as pollen and dander.

See also: Conjunctivitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

When your eyes are exposed to anything to which you are allergic, histamine is released and the blood vessels in the conjunctiva become swollen (the conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the “white” of the eye). Reddening of the eyes develops quickly and is accompanied by itching and tearing.

Allergies tend to run in families, although no obvious mode of inheritance is recognized. The incidence of allergy is difficult to determine, because many different conditions are often lumped under the term allergy. Keep in mind that rubbing the eyes makes the situation worse.

Pictures & Images

Eye

The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle tunic layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

Allergy symptoms

Allergy symptoms

The immune system normally responds to harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses and toxins by producing symptoms such as runny nose and congestion, post-nasal drip and sore throat, and itchy ears and eyes. An allergic reaction can produce the same symptoms in response to substances that are generally harmless, like dust, dander or pollen. The sensitized immune system produces antibodies to these allergens, which cause chemicals called histamines to be released into the bloodstream, causing itching, swelling of affected tissues, mucus production, hives, rashes, and other symptoms. Symptoms vary in severity from person to person.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis

Allergy-causing substances like pollen and dander may cause dilatation of blood vessels in the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the eye. The resulting reddening of the eyes is called allergic conjunctivitis, and is usually accompanied by itching and tearing.

Allergic conjunctivitis: Overview & Causes

Allergic conjunctivitis: Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Allergic conjunctivitis: Treatment


Review Date : 8/22/2008
Reviewed By : Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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