When Allergies Cause Pink Eye

Viruses, bacteria, irritating substances (shampoo, dirt, smoke, pool chlorine), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or allergens (substances that cause allergies) can all cause PINK EYE.  If it’s caused by allergies, then it’s not contagious.  It is important to find out whether your pink eye is caused by allergies or infection, because each condition has different treatments. This photo shows allergic pink eye (or conjunctivitis).
Symptoms of allergic pink eye include:

  • Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
  • Increased amount of tears
  • Itchy eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Swelling of the eyelid

In allergic conjunctivitis, these symptoms are usually present in both eyes (not always equally).   Here are the treatments for allergic pink eye.

  • Ocular (topical) decongestants: These medicines reduce redness by constricting small blood vessels in the eye. They are not recommended for long-term use. Using these drops for more than a few days can actually worsen symptoms.
  • Ocular (topical) antihistamines: These medicines reduce redness, swelling, and itching by blocking the actions of histamine, the chemical that causes these symptoms of allergy. They are available both over-the-counter and by prescription.
  • Ocular (topical) steroids: When other medicines fail, your doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops to relieve the symptoms of conjunctivitis. These must be used with the supervision of your doctor, because they can cause elevated pressure inside of the eye, which can lead to vision damage. Your doctor also must check for viral eye infections, such as herpes, before ocular steroids are used. These drops can also increase the risk of cataracts, clouding of the lens of the eye that can impair vision.
  • Ocular (topical) mast cell stabilizers (such as Cromolyn): This medicine works by preventing specialized cells from releasing histamine. It works best when started before symptoms occur.
  • Systemic (oral) versions of the above medications: These are used for severe cases.
  • Immunotherapy: Allergy shots can be effective for treating pink eye caused by allergies. Oral tablets containing the same extracts as shots are also available.