By Dr Harsh Sharma, DHMS, BHMS
Published August 8, 2014, Last updated October 21, 2016
What is Allergic Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye
In summers, one often meets children and even adults with pink eyes or blood shot eyes. There is irritation in the eyes as depicted by the constant rubbing of the eyes. Lachrymation or watery discharge from the eyes is also present in such people. The cause of this trouble is an allergy that affects the conjunctiva of the eye and is known as allergic conjunctivitis in medical terms. It is often known as ‘Pink Eye’. It is a chronic problem and flares up almost every year with the onset of summers. Such patients dread the summers as their problem starts getting aggravated by the end of March or the beginning of April. Youngsters are affected more commonly by this trouble and it is more common in boys than girls, though there is no known reason for this preference of one gender to the other. Once it flares up, the problem tends to persist for the whole of summers and gets better only once the weather changes and winters set in. This pattern is repeated every year.
Symptoms of Allergic Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye
The common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis or the ‘Pink Eye’ are redness of the eyes, irritation in the eyes and watery discharge from the eyes. The redness of the eye can be explained by the fact that the allergy causes inflammation and also the irritation in the eyes causes the patient to rub the eyes frequently. One cannot tolerate light and is forced to stay away from light or wear dark glasses. At times, there is increased production of mucous which collects in the eyes in the form of thick, ropy secretion that is white in colour. There is swelling below the upper eyelid which forms a polygonal pattern. The swelling causes the upper eyelid to droop and is one forced to raise the head to look straight ahead. Such swelling can also affect the lower eyelid though it is less common.
The allergic origin of the problem is also reflected in the blood tests where the eosinophil count is raised. While the allergic origin of the trouble is known, it is difficult or rather impossible to pinpoint the allergens that are responsible. Since the allergens are not known, it becomes difficult to prevent the occurrence of allergic conjunctivitis. In most of the cases, it affects both the eyes, though both may not be affected equally.
Is allergic conjunctivitis contagious?
There is a common myth or misconception regarding Allergic Conjunctivitis. Many people think that this is the same as the bacterial or viral conjunctivitis and is contagious, which is not the case. It has often been reported that children are sent back home from school by school authorities because they think that the child is suffering from the contagious variety of conunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis, as its names suggests, is allergic in nature and not at all contagious. It does not spread by contact from one person to the other or by any indirect contact or sharing of towels or shaking hands with an affected person. Avoiding contact with any affected person is therefore not at all necessary.
Management of allergic conjunctivitis
Applying ice or cold compress on the eyes is quite effective as it reduces the inflammation and the irritation in the eyes. It is advisable to avoid direct exposure to sun in the daytime. One should wear dark glasses in case one has to go out in the sun. At the same time, the glasses should have good protection against UV rays. Wearing glasses also protects against wind, dust, allergens and other pollutants.
Role of Homeopathy in the treatment of Allergic Conjunctivitis
I have had great success in the treatment of Allergic Conjunctivitis with homeopathy. Common medicines like Pulsatilla, Euphrasia, Argentum Nitricum, Ruta and Silicea are quite effective in the treatment of the acute phase. Once the acute phase has subsided, this needs to be followed by the right constitutional medicine which helps in eradicating the tendency of this disease to occur again and again every year.