Survey shows eye allergies disrupt daily activities, impact performance, appearance

May 18, 2012

Spring can be a difficult time for the one in five individuals affected by seasonal eye allergies. For many vision corrected individuals, eye allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery, or red eyes often keep them from enjoying daily activities, affect their appearance, and impact their performance at work, at school, and during sports, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive® on behalf of Vistakon® Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

According to the online survey of 755 eye allergy sufferers ages 18 and older who wear glasses, contact lenses, or both, more than two in five (41 percent) said they suffer from mild to moderate eye allergy symptoms on a daily basis. Women, in particular, note eye allergy symptoms often make them look like they have been crying (48 percent), and frequent rubbing of their eyes often causes their makeup to come off (47 percent). As a result, many report that their red, puffy eyes make them look tired and unattractive (38 percent).

One in three survey respondents said they wear contact lenses only or in conjunction with glasses, with 84 percent reporting they wear reusable contacts they replace either monthly or every one to two weeks. Among contact lens wearers surveyed, 39 percent said they wear their contacts less often, and about one in five said they either remove their contacts during the day (22 percent) or don’t wear them at all (19 percent) due to eye allergy symptoms.

Noted educator and author Paul Karpecki, O.D., clinical director, Koffler Vision Group, Lexington, Ky., said he is not surprised 74 percent of contact lens wearers with eye allergies said their allergy symptoms make them feel “uncomfortable” when wearing their contacts.

“Allergy season is particularly challenging for some contact lens wearers because allergens and other irritants can build up on contacts over time, leading to discomfort and symptoms such as itching, tearing and redness,” Dr. Karpecki said. “Chemical disinfectants and preservatives used in some contact lens care systems also can affect the ocular surface of the eye when it is in an allergic state.”

For allergy sufferers who want to wear or remain in contacts, Dr. Karpecki recommends daily disposable lenses.

“The healthiest and most comfortable contact lens option for any eye allergy sufferer is a daily disposable lens, such as 1-Day Acuvue® Moist® Brand Contact Lenses,“ advised Dr. Karpecki. “Putting a clean, fresh lens into the eye each day minimizes the potential for the buildup of irritants that occur with repeated use of the same pair of lenses.”

Dr. Karpecki also suggested ODs offer the following advice to allergy sufferers:

  • Find out what causes your allergy and try to avoid the trigger. “If pollen is what bothers you, try to stay indoors during the peak allergy season and minimize the amount of time you are in the wind, which blows allergens around.”
  • Be cautious with allergy pills that claim to ease allergy symptoms. “Quite frequently, allergy medication can dry the eyes out. If you must take an allergy pill, try to take it at night so the drying effect is not as dramatic. Talk to your doctor about what medication(s) are best for you.”
  • Use transient-preserved or preservative-free artificial tears. “People who suffer from eye allergy symptoms may also find that the preservatives in artificial tears also cause discomfort.”
  • Consider allergy drops, which are prescribed by a doctor. “I tell my patients to put the drops in each eye in the morning before inserting contact lenses and then put a drop in at night after they remove their lenses.”
  • Take more frequent showers to wash away allergens and at night, turn off ceiling fans, as allergens and dust are easily picked up by a fan.
  • Take a cool washcloth and place it over the eyes to ease swelling and discomfort. “Relax for a bit with the washcloth over the eyes to relieve symptoms.”

To help allergy sufferers better understand and manage their condition, a free educational brochure titled “Eye Health and Allergies” is available at www.acuvue.com/seasons.

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