New OTC Relief for Eye Allergies

Health Professional

I have eye allergies, and they're no fun. Any time of the year, but especially in the early summer and during ragweed season, I can expect to unexpectedly have itching, watering, and/or burning of one or both of my eyes.

Usually, I don't even know why it starts. Sometimes it only lasts for a short time; other times, it can go on for days, getting steadily worse. One summer, it got so bad, I had a corneal abrasion and sustained permanent damage to one of my eyes, though thankfully it doesn't affect my vision.

Can you relate? Have you ever woken up in the morning with your eyes glued shut from a nightime's worth of dried mucus? Can you imagine trying to make a living on the computer when your eyes are red, irritated and weeping? I can.

I used to try treating my allergies myself with over the counter eye drops like Visine. I didn't know that could be dangerous until I had that bad corneal incident I mentioned above. it seems that most of those eye drops are topical decongestants and when used long-term, they can cause a condition called conjunctivitis medicamentosa, resulting in an increase in eye redness and irritation.

My eye doctor told me then that I'd be better off with one of the prescription allergy eye drops, such as Patanol.

Some of them didn't really work that well for me, but even though Patanol did, it was terrifically expensive for a tiny little bottle that didn't last all that long. And sometimes even that didn't do the trick. Plus, I never seemed to have any drops left (or refills) when my eye allergy attacks would come upon me, which often seemed to be over the weekend.

So, am I writing this just to get the sympathy vote? Not hardly. Big Smile

Actually, I have some good news. It seems that there are now some eye drops available over the counter that were formerly only sold by prescription. These eye drops are a topical antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer and they don't cause conjunctivitis medicamentosa.

The drug name is ketotifen and it's sold under the brand names of Alaway from Bausch & Lomb and Zaditor from Novartis. Both start working in minutes, can be used long-term and the effects last for as long as 12 hours, as opposed to the 3 or 4 of topical decongestants. And the drops are safe for use in children as young as age 3 years. They won't bankrupt you either, as they usually retail for around $15 for a bottle that lasts about a month.

As for me, I find this to be welcome news and I plan to try one of the brands out next summer to fend off my usual eye allergies. How about you?