Insights From Our Editors

How Many Patients Are Asked By the Eye Doctor About Possible Allergies?

It seems that most of you are doing a good job at asking patients about possible ocular allergies, but more work in this area may need to be done. Some 64.3 percent of respondents to Jobson Optical Research’s 2012 Adult Consumer Eye Exam Experience say they were asked by the doctor about possible allergies during their last exam while 27.4 percent say they were not. Some 8.3 percent say they can’t remember whether or not they were asked. Click HERE to purchase the full report.

Here are a few statistics about allergies that you should know. (http://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-statistics)

Number of people in the US who have either allergy or asthma symptoms

20%

Percentage of the US population that tests positive to one or more allergens

55%

Rank of allergies among other leading chronic diseases in the US

5th

Odds that a child with one allergic parent will develop allergies

33%

Odds that a child with two allergic parents will develop allergies

70%

Percentage of US households with one or more dogs

39%

Percentage of US households with one or more cats

33%

Percentage of all US households with detectable levels of dog and cat dander

100%

Ocular allergies can be divided into SAC and PAC. SAC is Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis. SAC involves things like grass, weeds and pollen. Ninety percent of ocular allergies are seasonal. The degree to which people suffer from seasonal allergies is usually greater. Seasonal allergies can only be controlled, not eliminated.

One of the problems we can encounter in practice is the patient seen in the winter who does not mention during their office visit the seasonal allergies they experience in the spring or fall. It’s the old out of sight, out of mind phenomena. This is why it is so important to ask not just about current allergies but about those that may occur at different times during the year.

PAC is Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis. PAC involves things like dust mites, animal dander and mold. Five percent of ocular allergies are perennial. Perennial allergens can be removed from the home by cleaning and protective covers.

Some people suffer from both SAC and PAC.

Since both SAC and PAC have common signs and symptoms, make sure you ask about:

  • Burning sensation
  • Eyelid swelling/puffiness
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Tearing
  • Watery eyes

And don’t forget to ask about cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust and perfume.

Primary management for both SAC and PAC includes avoidance, pharmaceutical agents and single-use contact lenses.

Click HERE for an article on the role of single-use contact lens technologies with lubricating agents in providing an enhanced barrier to airborne allergens.

Your action plan for this week is to review how you approach SAC and PAC in your office. To help you in your review, answer these three questions.

  1. Have you identified at least 20 percent of your total patient population with having either allergy or asthma symptoms?
  2. Does your entering history adequately explore ocular allergies?
  3. Do you ask ocular allergy questions of every patient?

Unidentified conditions are untreated conditions. If we want to improve the quality of life of every patient we see, then we need to make sure we identify and help all of our patients with ocular allergies.

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