The Best Eye Drops for Allergies

by on September 12th, 2010
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Have you experienced itchy, red, watery, sore, swollen or stinging eyes? Then you are most likely experiencing the symptoms of eye allergies. Itching is the most important symptom, without itching, it is less likely that you are experiencing eye allergies. Both eyes are usually affected, although one eye may be worse than the other.

There are two different types of eye allergies; those caused by seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) and perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC). SAC is normally caused by ragweed and grass pollens, while PAC is more often caused by pet dander, dust mites and feathers.

So how do you treat eye allergies? The number one thing to do is to avoid the substances all together, but if you are exposed there are some things you can do. Oral antihistamines will sometimes work well, but there are eye drops available that will help and we’ve listed the best eye drops on the market today.

Over-the-counter eye drops are only available in decongestant and decongestant/antihistamine form. Some examples of the decongestant form are Visine and Naphcon – both generic forms of naphazoline. Examples of the decongestant/antihistamine form are Visine-A and Naphcon-A – both generic forms of naphazoline/pheniramine.

Decongestant eye drops, with or without antihistamines are not recommended for long periods of time. The overuse of these medications can lead to conjunctivitis. Also, these types of eye drops are not recommended for people with glaucoma, and should be used cautiously by those who have heart or blood pressure issues.

Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a new drug named Alaway, which is made of ketotifen. This medication works by a dual action mechanism. Working with antihistamine activity and prevention of the release of chemicals from mast cells, this medication treats eye allergies long term without causing conjunctivitis.

Prescription eye drops are available in five different types based on how the medication works. There are decongestant and decongestant/antihistamine forms which work equally as well as the over-the-counter types. The only prescription drops associated with conjunctivitis are decongestants.

Five Types of Prescription Eye Drops:

1. Anti-histamine Eye Drops: Emadine is the only type available and works well to treat eyes on an as needed basis.

2. Mast Cell Stabilizer Eye Drops: These types of eye drops have been around for many years and work well to prevent symptoms before the exposure. These are available as lodoxamide (Alomide), pemirolast (Alamast), nedocromil (Alocril and generics), and cromolyn (Cromolon and generics). These are not as helpful on an as-needed basis.

3. Antihistamine/Mast Cell Stabilizer Dual-Action Eye Drops: This is the newest generation of eye drops and is by far superior to other single action agents. These are available as ketotifen (Zaditor), epinastine (Elestat), azelastine (Optivar), and olopatadine (Patanol). Essentially, they block the effects of the histamine and prevent mast cells from releasing chemicals that cause the allergy symptoms.

4. Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Eye Drops: These types work like aspirin and ibuprofen in treating allergic conjunctivitis. The only brand available is ketorolac (Acular). Do not use if sensitive to aspirin.

5. Corticosteroid Eye Drops: Take caution when using steroid eye drops as they can lead to severe complications such as glaucoma, cataracts, and severe eye infections. Loteprednol (Alrex) is indicated for short term use (only seven to 10 days) of allergic conjunctivitis. Often used as a bridge to other eye medications.

If the above treatments are not working, then you might want to talk to your doctor about allergy shots. As always, consult your provider to find out which treatment is best for you.

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