Why Does Pollen Cause Irritated Eyes for Hay Fever Sufferers?

Hay fever-causing pollen particles and other foreign bodies can cause discomfort

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is the most common form of non-infectious rhinitis, affecting between 10 percent and 30 percent of all adults and as many as 40 percent of children(i).

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to the pollen particles released from trees and plants, and common symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and red, itchy eyes. Although usually worse around freshly cut grass and during warm weather, this troublesome condition is not limited to fleeting summer days and can occur at any time when pollen levels are high—in practice, that means any time between spring and late autumn.

Patricia O’Connor, Optician at Maverick and Wolf said: ‘Flare ups can occur during pollen peaks at various times of year depending on which species of plant is producing pollen.’

Our eyes are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pollen as, unlike the nose and lungs, the eyes have no filtration devices (e.g. cilia or mucus) for filtering allergens. The defence mechanism is the tear film, which provides a barrier function and dilutes and rinses away foreign bodies, preventing them from reaching the eyes’ surface. As a standard bodily function, this rinsing action generally goes unnoticed. The problem with pollen and other allergens is that they can cause an irritant or immune reaction which can disrupt this protective tear film. A broken tear film then allows allergen particles to reach the eyelid lining, causing further irritation and an over-production of watery tears. These watery tears afford little protection, meaning the allergen particles continue to irritate the eyes, leading to a cycle of discomfort.

Eye drops can be very beneficial in relieving hay fever symptoms such as watery, itchy eyes as well as helping to relieve dryness and irritation. Eye drops create a protective, lubricating and hydrating film over the surface of the eye. The barrier effect is maintained between applications through the process of blinking which re-spreads the drops over the eye surface. This barrier works to stabilise the tear film, helping to restore the barrier and support the rinsing action necessary to keep irritants and allergens out of the eyes.

In addition to hay fever, foreign bodies such as dust, pet dander and mould spores can cause allergy eyes and dry eye symptoms. Although not the same for everyone, dry eye symptoms can typically create a sensation of having something in the eye and possibly some discomfort, itching, redness or inflammation. Paradoxically, irritated eyes sometimes produce excessively watery tears.

Using eye drops with contact lenses

Contact lens wearers often find that, when using some multi-use eye drops, their eyes can become even more irritated. This can be due to the presence of preservatives within the multi-dose eye drops’ formulation which can cause eye irritation and sensitisation. When used with contact lenses, these ingredients can accumulate in/under the lens, causing further problems and sometimes, in extreme cases, even tissue damage. Preservatives are often essential in multi-dose formulas to prevent microbial contamination and spoilage of the drops once opened. Therefore, it is advisable for contact lens wearers who suffer from eye irritation to opt for preservative-free, sterile, single-dose dropper eye drops. The irritancy potential of preservatives explains why eye products containing preservatives are often not recommended for long term use, or for use with contact lenses.

It is always advisable to consult a doctor, optician or pharmacist if symptoms persist for a long period of time or worsen.

Many eye drops should only be used for temporary relief from eye irritation, however, Eyelergy Eye Drops can be used as a longer-term product to help to ward off some of the symptoms of hay fever.

Eyelergy Eye Drops are specially designed to combat the symptoms of hay fever eyes and eye irritation such as dry eye or irritation caused by dust and other airborne pollutants. The drop’s protective barrier gel technology rinses and shields the eyes from allergens and irritants such as pollen, mould, dust mites, pet dander, dust and airborne pollutants.
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