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Frequent Blinking & Tearing / Eye Allergies


Eye Allergy (“allergic conjunctivitis”) - a common cause of frequent blinking and tearing


My child blinks frequently, occasionally rubs his eyes and tears too. What are the likely causes?


Frequent blinking and rubbing may be symptoms of eye allergy. Other acute causes may be viral conjunctivitis or foreign body entry into the eye.


What causes eye allergy or “allergic conjunctivitis”?


Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when a person comes into contact with something that he/she is sensitized to like house dust, mold or pollen. Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammatory reaction of the eye to the above. It is not contagious as it is not an infection but the condition can be very irritating.




What are the symptoms of eye allergy?


Itching, tearing and, especially in children, frequent blinking or rolling of eyes. The “white” of the eye may turn pink or bloodshot. Sometimes, the membrane covering of the eyeball (“conjunctiva”) can swell such that a clear blister arises on the “white” of the eye. The eyelid skin may become swollen, red or eczematous.


Is allergy testing necessary to find out what is causing the eye allergy?


Not unless the eye allergy is very severe. Treatments are generally the same no matter what causes the allergic reaction. The commonest cause of eye allergy – house dust mite, is unfortunately difficult to avoid and eradicate.


What are house dust mites?


House dust is a mixture of various waste materials lie dead human skin cells, animal dander, fabric fibres, dust mites, mould spores, food particles etc. However it is the dust mite allergen that is the most common contributor to allergic conjunctivitis. Within the home, dust mite colonies can be found in bedding, carpets, soft toys and other upholstery. Dust mites can be found in all homes despite best efforts to keep homes clean.


What medications are available to treat allergic conjunctivitis?


Medications to treat allergic conjunctivitis fall into different classes.

Antihistamine eye drops help in alleviating the itch, while mast cell stabilizer drops work on a longer term basis to suppress and control the allergy. Mast cell stabilizers are generally more effective if used daily, but others can be used on a as-needed basis.


What options are available if anti-allergy eye drops are not helping?


Oral medication can provide some relief for children who have other allergic symptoms such as stuffy nose or eczema. Cold compresses can help soothe the itching and swelling.

In severe cases, steroid eye drops may be required to quell exacerbations. Patients on steroid eye drops require close eye monitoring as steroids can induce glaucoma after prolonged usage. Less commonly if used at high doses over months, cataracts can develop.

If your child has the above symptoms or experiences frequent uncontrolled exacerbations, feel free to contact us. There are now many classes of anti-allergy medication available and these can be prescribed in a tiered manner.


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Singapore 329563

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