Spring is in the air, finally! We are soon to see new life, fresh grass, flowers, and leaves on the trees. Lots to look forward to. But for some people, spring can bring the misery of runny noses, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. But don’t worry, here’s what you can do to get relief.

Talk to your Optometrist about what treatment is best for you

Anti-allergy medication can often help with the majority of your symptoms but sometimes, it’s not enough. If you have watery, itchy, red eyes, or if that is your only symptom, your Optometrist can help. Eye drops can prevent the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. There are different types of topical medication – some are available over the counter and others with prescription. Your Optometrist will prescribe the best one for you, based on your eye exam.

Try not to rub your eyes

Just like your mother told you, rubbing your itchy eyes will just make it worse. Rubbing causes the cells to release more histamine. This worsens the allergic reaction and causes more redness, swelling and discomfort – and yes, more itching. Use a cold compress instead to relieve that itchy feeling. It will help shrink blood vessels and slow the inflammatory reaction.

Make sure that you are not suffering from something else

Red eyes can occur as a result of different causes, but often look similar. The condition at the root of your suffering is likely conjunctivitis, but there are different types of conjunctivitis with different causes. There is bacterial conjunctivitis, viral conjunctivitis (pink eye), and allergic conjunctivitis. In fact, dry eye can cause similar symptoms as allergic eyes. There are microscopic differences that can be seen only by your Optometrist to determine which type of red eye you might have. Do not assume that your red eye is caused by allergies. Some potentially serious conditions, including anterior uveitis, corneal ulcers and acute angle closure glaucoma, can cause red eyes and should be ruled out by your Optometrist. Over-wearing contact lenses can cause red, irritated eyes too! Your Optometrist will look at the skin on the underside of your eyelids (the conjunctiva) to help determine the cause. The Optometrist will also look at the rest of the eye to make sure there is no internal inflammation..

Many of my patients have assumed their red eye is allergy related, or is the ever dreaded “pink eye”, and have self-treated it with the wrong medication. This causes them to suffer longer than needed.

My most memorable example is a young lady who wore contact lenses and suffered from seasonal allergies. She assumed that allergies were causing her discomfort. By the time she came to see me, she had a highly inflamed cornea and was losing vision. After diagnosis, it turned out that her condition was not allergy related at all, but caused from over-wear of contact lenses. It took two months of therapy to clear her cornea and return her vision to normal.

Don’t suffer through another season of red, watery eyes. Make sure to book an eye exam with your Optometrist, so that you can get outside and enjoy great weather. Your Optometrist is only a phone call (or email) away! We are here to help. And yes, never leave your home without your sunglasses. Take care of your beautiful eyes together with your Optometrist!


About the Author

Dr. Tracy McMurter is an Optometrist with a private practice located in Ancaster, Ontario. She graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Doctor of Optometry degree in 1994.

Dr. McMurter started working as an Optometrist in Bowmanville, Ontario, and set up her own practice in Ancaster in 1995, where she has enjoyed living and working in the community for the past 20 years. She is a longtime member and President Elect of the local Rotary Club and is currently serving as a Director on the Ontario Association of Optometrists Board.