A review of non-pharmacological and pharmacological management of seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis

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Allergic eye disease encompasses a group of hypersensitivity disorders which primarily affect the conjunctiva and its prevalence is increasing. It is estimated to affect 8% of patients attending optometric practice but is poorly managed and rarely involves ophthalmic assessment. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is the most common form of allergic eye disease (90%), followed by perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC; 5%). Both are type 1 IgE mediated hypersensitivity reactions where mast cells play an important role in pathophysiology. The signs and symptoms are similar but SAC occurs periodically whereas PAC occurs year round. Despite being a relatively mild condition, the effects on the quality of life can be profound and therefore they demand attention. Primary management of SAC and PAC involves avoidance strategies depending on the responsible allergen(s) to prevent the hypersensitivity reaction. Cooled tear supplements and cold compresses may help bring relief. Pharmacological agents may become necessary as it is not possible to completely avoid the allergen(s). There are a wide range of anti-allergic medications available, such as mast cell stabilisers, antihistamines and dual-action agents. Severe cases refractory to conventional treatment require anti-inflammatories, immunomodulators or immunotherapy. Additional qualifications are required to gain access to these medications, but entry-level optometrists must offer advice and supportive therapy. Based on current evidence, the efficacy of anti-allergic medications appears equivocal so prescribing should relate to patient preference, dosing and cost. More studies with standardised methodologies are necessary elicit the most effective anti-allergic medications but those with dual-actions are likely to be first line agents. © 2011 British Contact Lens Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-16
Number of pages8
JournalContact Lens and Anterior Eye
Issue number1
Early online date16 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • allergic conjunctivitis
  • management
  • treatment
  • medication


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