Spring is a time of renewal. Songbirds
sing their loudest and most eloquent songs to mark and own their
territory and to attract a mate. Flowers emerge through the cool,
damp soil from bulbs that have slowly prepared from fall to
present a kaleidoscope of colors, which brighten our days. Grasses
awake from their dormancy to claim their space in the yard. Trees
sprout new growth to repair the traumas from winter storms.
spring's first large scale producers of buds, flowers and pollens.
Grasses, molds and weeds follow as the seasons advance. It's the
pollens that blur the vision of our contact lens-wearing patients.
affect contact lens wearers in multiple ways. Pollens are both
physical and immunologic irritants, affecting roughly 10 percent to
20 percent of the population, with even greater percentages in the
warmer and humid climates.
environment dictates allergen concentrations. Not only humidity and
temperature affect pollen counts, so does atmospheric carbon
dioxide. As carbon dioxide concentrations increase, so do the number
of pollens and other allergens in our environment.
Medical School study found that ragweed grown in an atmosphere with
double the current carbon dioxide levels produced 61 percent more
pollen. Regrettably, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are expected
to double over the next 50 years.
greatest tree-generated physical irritant is the bi-lobed,
vesiculated pine pollen, which feels like aerated sand to our
lens-wearing patients. Allergic rhinitis with associated allergic
conjunctivitis is the main immunologic consequence to seasonal tree
pollens. Contact lens wear can be challenging in this environment.
Advice for Lens Wearers
some tips you can pass on to your contact lens wearers to keep them
more comfortable throughout the spring.
patients to wear goggles or close-fitting sunglasses when outside
and to keep home and automobile windows closed.
efficiency air filters and electrostatic air cleaners can remove
pollen and dust, improving air quality in central air conditioning
systems. Replace disposable filters monthly during heavy pollen
use of low-viscosity, preservative-free artificial tears will help
to dilute and rinse out tear film irritants. In-eye contact lens
cleaners such as Blink-n-Clean (AMO) or Clerz Plus (Alcon) can also
antihistamines can help alleviate allergic symptoms, but are
associated with ocular dryness. Advise patients to use topical
decongestants sparingly to avoid vascular rebound. Mast cell
stabilizers are helpful if used before symptoms occur. Combination
drops (Elestat [Allergan], Optivar [MedPoint Pharmaceuticals],
Patanol [Alcon], Zaditor [Novartis Ophthalmics]) seem to offer the
greatest relief of symptoms by combining the immediate
antihistaminic relief with the prolonged effect of mast cell
patients to ignore the no rub product labeling and to rub and rinse
upon removal to decrease accumulated debris from the lens surfaces.
If you suspect a solution-related hypersensitivity or toxicity,
change to peroxide disinfection to eliminate possible preser-vative
face and hands often with cold water can be very effective in
relieving symptoms. Cold compresses help relieve ocular itching (try
putting ice cubes in a wet wash cloth). Advise patients who have
severe signs or symptoms to avoid wearing lenses.