published Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Ask a doctor: Why do my eyes get red, swollen and itchy when I have not done anything to them?

By Dr. Deborah DiStefano

Q: Why do my eyes get red, swollen and itchy when I have not done anything to them?

A: About 22 million people in the United States suffer from seasonal itchy, swollen, red eyes. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, or hay fever, is the most common allergic eye problem. Antihistamine and decongestant eyedrops and sprays can soothe your irritated eyes and nose. Make every effort to avoid allergens. An allergist can identify your allergies. It is hard to stay away from outdoor pollen, but remaining indoors when pollen levels are highest may control symptoms. If you are allergic to house dust, open windows and keep household filters clean. Applying cool compresses to eyes helps decrease swelling and itching. Artificial tears dilute allergens and form a protective barrier over the eye surface. Avoid rubbing your eyes, which makes symptoms worse. If seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is a problem, see an ophthalmologist who can prescribe safe, effective anti-allergy drops. In some cases, oral medications are needed. Your ophthalmologist can make sure that your symptoms are not caused by a more serious problem.

— Dr. Deborah DiStefano, DiStefano Eye Center; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question, email it to Clint Cooper at See this space each week for answers.

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