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Eye Allergies

Symptoms and Treatment of Eye Allergies


Updated June 02, 2014

Prescription eye drops. Eye drops in prescription forms are available in five types, based on how the medication works. Decongestant and decongestant/anti-histamine combination drops are also available in prescription forms, which are equivalent to other-the-counter formulations. Other than decongestant forms of eye drops, none of the prescription eye drops are associated with conjunctivitis medicamentosa with long-term use.

  1. 1) Anti-histamine eye drops. This medication, currently only available as emedastine (Emadine®), works well to treat eye allergies on an "as-needed" basis. Older forms of ant-histamine eye drops have been discontinued.
  1. 2) Mast cell stabilizer eye drops. These medications have been around for many years, and work well to prevent allergic conjunctivitis symptoms if used before allergen exposure. These are available as cromolyn (Crolom® and generics), nedocromil (Alocril® and generics), lodoxamide (Alomide®) and pemirolast (Alamast®). These medications are not as helpful when used on an "as needed" basis.
  1. 3) Anti-histamine/mast cell stabilizer dual-action eye drops. The newest generation of allergy eye drops is superior to either of the single action agents. This class of medication includes olopatadine (Patanol®), azelastine (Optivar®), epinastine (Elestat®) and ketotifen (Zaditor®). These medications block the effects of histamine and prevent mast cells from releasing the chemicals responsible for allergy symptoms.
  1. 4) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops. Ketorolac (Acular®) is indicated for the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis, and works in a similar way as aspirin and ibuprofen. Those with aspirin sensitivity or intolerance should not use this medication.
  1. 5) Corticosteroid eye drops. Use of steroid eye drops can lead to severe complications if not used with caution and under the close supervision of a physician experienced in the use of these medications. Complications can include glaucoma, cataract formation, and severe eye infections. One type of steroid eye drop, loteprednol (Alrex®), is indicated for the short-term use (typically less than 7-10 days) of allergic conjunctivitis, but should be used with caution. These medications are usually only needed in severe cases of allergic conjunctivitis, and can act as a "bridge" to another class of medication as listed above.

Allergen immunotherapy. Allergy shots have been shown to be especially beneficial in the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis, and are the only therapy available that changes the underlying problem of allergies, potentially curing the problem of eye allergies.


  1. 1) Ono SJ, Abelson MB. Allergic conjunctivitis: Update on pathophysiology and prospects for future treatment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005; 115:118-22.
  1. 2) Bielory L. Allergic and Immunologic Disorders of the Eye. Part II: Ocular Allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2000; 106:1019-32.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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