Spring is here! Flowers are blooming and pollen is drifting through the warm air, wreaking havoc on people who suffer from eye allergies. Many people say their seasonal allergies arrived ahead of schedule this year, and that their symptoms are more intense than in previous years.
Below, we’ll explain what eye allergies are and why allergy season is becoming longer and stronger.
What Are Eye Allergies?
Eye allergies, also known as "allergic conjunctivitis," are the eyes' reaction to irritants and allergens in the environment. Symptoms of eye allergies may vary from inconvenient to debilitating, but they're usually treatable.
Symptoms of eye allergies include red, itchy, swollen eyes, watery or painful eyes, and are often accompanied by sneezing, a runny nose and nasal congestion.
Major causes of eye allergies include:
- Pet dander
- Makeup and cosmetic products
- Preservatives found in eye drops
Eye allergies are treated on a case-by-case basis, depending on what allergen is the culprit. Treatment can include oral or topical antihistamines, decongestants, lubricating eye drops and limiting exposure to allergens.
Why Does Allergy Season Seem Longer and Stronger This Year?
Several studies have observed the relationship between climate change and pollen season. As atmospheric temperatures rise, flowers and trees sense the warmth and start to release pollen.
When comparing the pollen season of 1990 to that of 2018, scientists noticed that it had increased by 20 days during that timespan. What’s more, the environmental pollen concentration had also increased by 21% over the same period. In other words, allergy season is becoming longer and more intense each year.
Aside from warming temperatures, the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels also plays a role in making allergy season more intense. Plants need CO2 to grow, and more CO2 means larger, stronger plants.
As atmospheric CO2 increases with climate change, flowers are producing significantly more pollen. CO2 can also make certain plants more potent and increase the amount of allergen-containing particles per pollen grain.
In fact, if atmospheric CO2 levels keep rising at this pace, it is projected that by the end of the century there will be 200% more pollen in the air!
You may be wondering if you’re in the clear because there aren’t many pollen-producing plants in your area. But some research suggests that changes in wind patterns due to climate change can expose people to pollen originating hundreds of miles away.
If You Suffer From Eye Allergies, We Can Help!
Although climate change is bad news for allergy sufferers, the good news is that we can help you manage your symptoms.
Don’t let eye allergies put a damper on your time in the sun. To schedule an eye exam and learn how we can offer long-lasting relief, call University Optometry in Palo Alto today!
At University Optometry, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 650-666-2191 or book an appointment online to see one of our Palo Alto eye doctors.
Want to Learn More? Read on!
#1: What else can you do to ease the symptoms of eye allergies?
Wearing wraparound sunglasses whenever outdoors can protect your eyes from airborne allergens like pollen and dust. Also, you may want to temporarily stop wearing contact lenses until your symptoms subside. Allergens can build up on the surface of the lens and irritate your eyes every time you insert them. Additionally, keep your windows closed whenever you’re indoors to prevent allergens from entering.
#2: Are eye allergies dangerous?
Eye allergies rarely cause any permanent damage to your eyes, but they can cause temporary blurred vision. Symptoms of eye allergies can be quite distracting and even painful, so be sure to visit your local optometrist at the first sign of discomfort.