This time of year brings an onslaught of pollen. Especially when there is a wet winter such as we've had in the mid-Atlantic. For those with allergies, that means the start of sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes or tearing. In some people, allergens stimulate the immune system, and the cellular response is what creates our symptoms. Each person is different in their sensitivities and manifestation of symptoms.
For the eyes, itching is typically caused by allergic conjunctivitis. It usually affects both eyes and patients can have some tearing and morning crusting on the eyelids, but the eyelids usually aren't "stuck shut." This can be readily treated with over the counter antihistamine eye drops (Zaditor) or artificial tears. Some patients need prescription eye drops to treat their allergies.
If patients have congestion and sneezing, oral antihistamines (Claritin or Zyrtec) are also helpful, although these can sometimes cause dry eye.
For some patients, the mass of pollen can clog tear glands and create what is commonly known as blepharitis, and even styes as a result. Patients with blepharitis complain of a sensation of something in the eye, occasional tearing and irritation, with the lids often feeling stuck shut or gummy in the morning. Many patients can find relief with daily warm compresses, eyelid scrubs and artificial tears. Some patients need more intense prescription treatment, and for some blepharitis is independent of allergies and is a chronic condition.
Of course, if your symptoms don't resolve with conservative treatment, you should seek care. Other causes of tearing are unrelated to allergies. If you have tearing associated with pain, or tearing from just one eye, then this is definitely something that should be looked at by an eye doctor.
Fortunately, the seasons change. With the heat and humidity of summer comes a decrease in pollen (until the fall). So if you're suffering from allergies, hang in there, it will get better. If you need an eye doc, we're just a phone call away.