Alamo Optometry Blog

April 27, 2014

Seasonal Allergies and Daily Disposable Contacts

Filed under: Uncategorized — gkblog @ 1:51 pm

(As appeared in Alamo Today, April 2014)

            If there is one thing we can count on this time of year, it is seasonal allergies.  Speaking from a personal point of view, I know dealing with the running nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, and tearing are no fun.  I am already having patients come into the office with complaints similar to my own.  The treatment plan for each person is different, but the drugs, drops, and contact lens modalities we use are similar.

            To tackle the allergies, most of us take either a prescription or over-the-counter antihistamine.  These usually help alleviate some of the systemic symptoms of runny nose, congestion, etc.  However, the main side effect of these medications is ocular dryness.  If the eyes are dry, it can actually worsen some of the ocular symptoms because there are now fewer tears to wash away the allergens in your eye.  So instead of flushing those allergens out of the eye, they now stay on the ocular surface and exacerbate the symptoms of itching, swelling, and tearing.

            For this reason, I also recommend topical drops to help in the fight against allergies.  These drops do not solve the problems, but generally enable the patient to function in the spring months.  There are several types of drops that can be used depending on the severity of the symptoms.  For a mild case, I usually recommend non-preserved artificial tears and an antihistamine drop like Bepreve or Lastacraft; these are only two of the several prescription drops to utilize.  These drops are site-specific; they only have their effect on the histamine-releasing cells on the eye and therefore do not have the broad systemic effects of oral antihistamines.  For the more advanced case, I recommend a short-term use of a topical steroid, which will calm the eye down relatively quickly.  Because of the potential side effects of a steroid, a drop of this kind should only be used for a relatively short period of time.  I usually instruct my patients to use the drop for about a week, and then use the topical antihistamines to keep the allergic reaction at bay.  I believe the use of steroids should only be used when indicated, but is a wise treatment choice in those patients that are really suffering.

            For those contact lens wearers, this is the time of year that leads to decreased wear time, build-up on the lenses, and overall intolerance of wear.  Most patients wear their lenses for less time, and/or dispose of them more often.  For all of my potential contact lens patients including those with allergy issues, I recommend daily disposable contacts.  These lenses are thin, easy to adapt to, do not require any cleaning or solutions, and are always comfortable because you put a fresh lens on every day.  Whether you are a recreational wearer for sports or weekends or wear them every day, these lenses are best for convenience, lens hygiene, and lens comfort.  A new lens leads to better vision and eye health because of no lens build up and a decreased risk for infection.  Even though wearing contact lenses during the spring months might be difficult, having a fresh lens every day provides the possibility of longer and comfortable wear. 

Obviously, every patient and situation is different.  Some patients don’t like taking drops and some patients are in love with their current lenses so daily disposables might not be an option.  At your visit, you will be evaluated on your particular signs and symptoms and be given the appropriate treatment plan.  The issues and treatments discussed have generally worked well for my patients in the past.  Most of the time, it will be a combination of these that will work best.

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