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The Pollen Section

All About Eye Allergies

Contact Lenses

People who wear contact lenses tend to be even more affected by allergic conjunctivitis, since the contacts themselves are an additional irritant, and they tend to dry the eyes and trap the pollen.

For those patients, it means that when tree or grass pollen season rolls in, the contacts need to come out; and if they suffer from allergic conjunctivitis year-round, eyeglasses may be the way to go.

“It’s sometimes not popular to wear glasses,” says Kim. “But like any inflammatory problem, you really don’t want a foreign body in there, so you have to keep the contacts out.”

The Eyes’ Allergic ‘Reflex’

But while allergy sufferers may feel the symptoms in their eyes, recent studies suggest that in many cases, they’ll need to look beyond their peepers to find significant relief.

According to Dr. Paul Keith, an allergist in the department of medicine at McMaster University, the answer could be literally at the end of their noses.

Keith explains that, when pollen and other allergens enter the nasal passages, the histamine released in the allergic response stimulates nerve receptors, and those receptors can trigger reflex symptoms elsewhere in the body. So while the initial reaction may take place in the nose, patients may actually feel the results in their lungs, on their skin – and in their eyes.

“The mediators stimulate nerve endings within the nose, and send a signal back to the brain. But the brain can’t figure out where it’s coming from,” says Keith.

“So you get signals coming back from the brain that tell the eyes to water and get rid of the problem, even though the problem may not have initiated in the eyes.”

He explains that: “It’s sort of like when you pull a hair from your nose and your eyes water. It’s a reflex mechanism.”

Next: Getting the Eyes to Chill Out

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