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If you’re like many Thornton, Colorado residents, you’re eagerly awaiting the approach of Spring.  Whether you like to backpack, hike, bike, run, swim, sail, or camp, we all have an exciting season ahead of us.  As we all know, being outdoors can result in more exposure to allergens, the tiny particles that can trigger allergies in the body and, yes, even the eyes.  While as many as 40% of Americans suffer from ocular allergies, few people know what the symptoms of ocular allergies are, or what to do when they experience those symptoms.  At Vista Eye Care, our optometrists take a preventative approach to ocular allergies.  Drs. Abert and Pedroza believe strongly in keeping our patients’ vision clear and comfortable, and we can use some of the many modern medications to treat your allergies and get you back outside having fun!
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So what exactly are ocular allergies?  The allergic reaction starts when the body reacts to an allergen, which may be a piece of dust, pollen, or animal dander.  Large cells in body (and ocular) tissues called mast cells contain molecules called histamines.  When the allergen comes into contact with the mast cell, the mast cell releases the histamines, and the histamines trigger a host of symptoms including watery eyes, dry eyes, itching eyes, redness, and blurred vision.  Treatment of ocular allergies focuses on either stabilizing the mast cells to prevent them from releasing histamines (mast cell stabilizers) or deactivating the histamines’ ability to trigger symptoms (anti-histamine).  Some medications will provide both mast cell stabilizing and antihistamine components, and some offer only antihistamine properties.  One of our favorite medications to prescribe is Pataday, which requires instillation only once per day making it convenient for chrildren and contact lens wearers.  Systemic allergy medications often have little or no affect on ocular allergies.  This means that while popping a Zyrtec or Claritin may be great for quelling the sniffles, it likely won’t help much with a pair of itching eyes.
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Vista Eye Care may also take an additional step and reduce the inflammation of the eyes, if necessary.  If the eye is inflamed as a result of allergies, a topical steroid may be used in the eyes.  This medication calms the ocular tissue and brings your eyes back down to baseline where maintenance drops can then take over and keep your eyes calm and itch-free.  All comprehensive exams at Vista Eye Care include checking the eyes for signs of ocular allergies.  If Drs. Abert or Pedroza notice signs of allergies, they may prescribe topical medication.  If the ocular allergies are mild enough, and the symptoms also mild, they may recommend one of several over-the-counter anti-allergy medications (we like Alaway by Bausch and Lomb, and Zaditor by Novaritis).  Contact our office today to schedule your annual comprehensive eye and vision examination, and enjoy Colorado’s great outdoors!