Allergies and Keratoconus

Tree pollen and ragweed allergies can cause watery eyes resulting in blurred vision, but keratoconus can also cause blurred vision. If your child (or you) has progressive nearsightedness due to keratoconus, an allergy causing upper respiratory symptoms can worsen overall eyesight. In turn, this can interfere with reading and other daily activities. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, at least 50 million people are affected by allergies in the US each year.

Described below are ways that untreated allergies affecting the eyes can impact keratoconus-afflicted people, and the usual options for treating allergies most linked to watery eyes or frequent sneezing.

How Allergic Rhinitis Differs from Other Allergic Reactions

Physicians classify allergic rhinitis as either seasonal or persistent in order to determine the best treatment plan for a patient. Not all allergic reactions cause upper respiratory symptoms, but breathing in the allergen is the typical trigger for an episode of allergic rhinitis. Between 10-30 percent of all people across the globe have allergic rhinitis (per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology).

While food allergies (e.g., nut allergies) are more common than allergic rhinitis in children, hay fever, pet hair, and dust (or mold) allergies are most commonly associated with allergic rhinitis. In contrast, food allergies are primarily linked to tongue and throat swelling, hives, and an anaphylactic reaction.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of a prescription drug allergy are:

  • Hives;
  • Skin rash;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Fever;
  • Itchy, watery eyes

Determining the cause of an allergic reaction is crucial for a physician to choose the most appropriate allergy treatment. Since a drug allergy can cause a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction (similar to a food allergy), immediate physician attention is warranted if a drug allergy is suspected.

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Contact Lenses and Watery Eyes

Watery eyes can make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable (due to the increased potential for the impacted contact lens to shift from proper position). Since nearsightedness in keratoconus-afflicted people is often treated by contact lens utilization (with hard contact lenses), experiencing persistent allergic rhinitis episodes can reduce the ability to correct nearsightedness through the use of contact lenses.

For this reason, obtaining allergic rhinitis diagnosis and treatment is an important component of an overall plan to preserve good eyesight in children and young adults.

Smoking and Allergic Rhinitis

Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of rhinitis symptoms, and 44 percent of the US population has allergic rhinitis (according to a research article in PLoS One). Children exposed to their parents’ cigarette smoke are also at increased risk of developing asthma – and an asthma attack necessitating hospitalization can be triggered by an allergic rhinitis episode.

Therefore, smoking cessation is imperative to reduce allergic rhinitis symptoms in your child (or you), and especially if you or your child has been diagnosed with keratoconus.

Treatment Options for Allergic Rhinitis

Depending upon the severity of the allergic rhinitis (and whether it is seasonal or year-round), physicians may recommend the following to treat diagnosed allergic rhinitis:

  • Daily use of prescription antihistamines;
  • Nasal steroid sprays;
  • Over-the-counter decongestants;
  • Allergy shots or sublingual tablets (immunotherapy)

The treatment choice is dependent upon the type and severity of the allergy, frequency of the allergic reaction, ability to tolerate the prescribed allergy treatment, and preference of the allergic individual.

The staff of the Precision Keratoconus Center recognize that an allergy can affect your eyesight, and understand that keratoconus may be only one of various conditions affecting your eyesight and overall health.

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