Key trends show eye allergies frequent

Recent data show that although ocular allergies are common, the majority of sufferers do not seek medical help beyond over-the-counter drugs.


Recent data show that although ocular allergies are common, the majority of sufferers do not seek medical help beyond over-the-counter drugs.


By Emily Schoemmell and Paul Gomes; Special to Ophthalmology Times

Ocular symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are common and quite often interfere with quality of life for allergic individuals.

To date, there is a paucity of national and international data evaluating the prevalence of ocular allergies within adult populations. As the worldwide population grows, so does interest in gathering and understanding how our allergic conjunctivitis sufferers get by daily.


One underlying concern is the high number of individuals who experience allergic eye symptoms, but fail to seek medical attention.

Existing survey data, including studies from a number of European countries and the United States, suggest a significant overlap in allergy prevalence, and a relatively low (10% to 20%) percentage of patients seeking treatment for their allergies.1

The consistency in overlap of allergy prevalence is evident in other global studies as well.

In an epidemiologic study performed on 4,991 first-time patients consulting allergy services in Spain, 55% of patients with allergic rhinitis were diagnosed, of whom 65% also had allergic conjunctivitis.2

It has also been well documented that itchy/red eyes or watery eyes is considered to be a most troublesome symptom for patients with allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis.

Recently, an Allergies in America survey found that the most common eye complaints in patients with allergic rhinitis were also watery eyes, itchy eyes, and red eyes.3

In an international survey on the impact of allergic rhinitis on health-related quality of life, itchy/red eyes were reported by 64% of patients in the United States with mixed forms of rhinitis and more commonly than in independent forms of seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis.4

Clearly, the data show that ocular allergic diseases present a whole host of concerns for their human targets.

In order to stay well-versed in therapeutic strategies and to understand better how ocular allergies are affecting the patient population, continual assessments of the allergic population is of utmost importance.

Digging deeper

A survey was conducted to assess the demographics of allergic history and treatment prevalence in allergic conjunctivitis sufferers in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts (Figure 1).

The goal of the study was to compare a population of people who suffer from allergic conjunctivitis with national and global averages and to identity potential emerging trends. Subjects who were part of an ocular allergy clinical trial database and who agreed to participate in a clinical trial were asked to participate in the IRB-approved questionnaire.

Of 230 subjects, a total of 205 completed questionnaires were included in the survey analysis.

The population of respondents was generally representative of the total database of trial participants in terms of age, racial distribution, and the relative numbers of men and women. Subjects provided information on their disease characteristics, their treatment strategies, and their satisfaction with their current therapeutic regimes.

The survey population consisted of 59% women and 41% men, with a mean age of 37.8 years.

The overwhelming majority (83.9%) reported experiencing nasal as well as ocular allergy symptoms, while smaller percentages (18% to 31%) stated they also suffered from food allergies, skin allergies, or asthma.

Approximately 1 in 4 reported some type of allergy to medication.

As a group, the respondents reflect recent national trends: 38% experience allergic symptoms year-round, while 62% have allergies confined to one or more seasons (Table 1).

The second-most reported complaint, after ocular itching, among all respondents was excessive tearing or watery eyes, followed by ocular redness (Table 2).

A high percentage of respondents also reported not seeking treatments for their allergies (Table 3).

Seventy-one percent of respondents with seasonal allergies and 53% with perennial allergies answered that they have not sought treatment from an eye-care professional, and 41% reported that they do not regularly purchase over-the-counter medications to treat their allergies.

Despite this, 89% of respondents that used drops reported that they are effective “all or most” of the time.

Survey conclusions

This survey confirmed that the study population selected accurately reflects national and global trends regarding incidence of ocular allergic diseases, and highlights the need for improved treatments for those with year-round allergy.

Like other studies, the authors note that an overwhelming majority of respondents experience both ocular and nasal symptoms, and many suffer with additional allergic symptomatologies.

The results of this survey emphasize that education is a vital role for providers.

It is imperative to continue to encourage patients with allergic conjunctivitis to take advantage of existing therapeutic options that are likely to improve their quality of life.


Rosario N, Bielory L. Epidemiology of allergic conjunctivitis. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011;11:471-476.

Navarro A, Colas C, Anton E, et al. Epidemiology of allergic rhinitis in allergy consultations in Spain: Alergologica-2005. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2009;19 Suppl 2:7-13.

Blaiss MS. Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: burden of disease. Allergy Asthma Proc. 2007;28:393-397.

Schatz M. A survey of the burden of allergic rhinitis in the USA. Allergy. 2007;62 Suppl 85:9-16.


Emily Schoemmell

Schoemmell is assistant manager, allergy department at Ora Inc., Andover, MA.






GomesPaul Gomes

Gomes is vice president, allergy at Ora Inc., Andover, MA.









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