Spring has sprung here in North Texas, and that means bluebonnets, tulips and lots of POLLEN.
Picture taken by Dr. Allen near Lake Buchanan in the Texas Hill Country
North Texas is notorious for our terrible air conditions that lead to allergies. It seems there is always something in bloom, something in pollen, or mold in the air, which causes allergic reactions in many of us.
Symptoms of allergies include:
- Itchy, red and watery eyes
- Sinus pressure
- Runny nose
The great news is that there are many very effective drugs, both over the counter and prescription, that can make your allergies more comfortable and less likely to cause serious side effects. The important news about these drugs, whether OTC or Rx, is: they work better when used consistently EVERY DAY. If you know you are prone to allergies, the best thing to do is to start taking a daily oral or inhaled antihistamine BEFORE your allergies come. That way, you won’t have the allergic reaction in the first place, and your lack of reaction will be easy to extend. Once you have the reaction, then drugs and doctors are playing catch up instead of being ahead of the game.
There are definite levels of treatment available, depending on the severity of your problem. If you only have itchy, watery eyes, then by far the best medication for you is just a topical eye drop, used consistently every day. If you have a more systemic response, like itchy eyes and sinus pressure, then a systemic medication is best for you. Over the counter agents like Zyrtec, Claritin and Allergra can be very effective in preventing an allergic response. Inhaled anti-histamines like Flonase and NasoCort will are also excellent, and VERY effective at treating itchy eyes.
OTC eye drops for allergies can be effective, but they wear off quickly and they tend to sting upon insertion, leading to multiple drops and red eyes throughout the day. I believe prescription drops are dramatically more effective AND more comfortable, especially when used at the same time every day.
There are several prescription drops that work extremely well: the ones I prescribe are Pazeo from Alcon and Lastacaft from Allergan. Both drops are long lasting, comfortable and usually covered by insurance. I also have coupons available for Pazeo which make your copay only $10, about the same cost as your OTC drops. If Pazeo isn’t covered by your insurance (United Health Care is notorious for this), then Lastacaft is a great option. For Pazeo, which has 24 hour effectiveness, you only need 1 drop a day. Lastacaft is a little less long lasting, so you may need one drop in the morning and one at night depending on your allergies.
I have many patients who come in and say “I don’t like taking medications so I only take Claritin every once in a while.” Keep in mind, these medications are most effective when taken every day. I think a better way to manage allergies is to use whatever medication you choose consistently, but only during your allergy season.
If left alone, allergies can cause more severe problems:
- Chronic inflammation of sinuses leading to a need for surgery
- Congestion in the chest which can worsen to bronchitis or pneumonia
- Floppy eyelids and wrinkles caused by eye rubbing
- Keratoconus (thinning of the cornea) caused by eye rubbing
If you are bothered by red and itchy eyes, come in to see Dr. Allen today for better, more comfortable vision and eye health.