Feature Article

Classifying and managing allergic conjunctivitis

Greg Moloney, Peter J McCluskey



Allergic conjunctivitis is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood and is responsible for presentations to a variety of doctors, including allergists, ophthalmologists and GPs. Allergic conjunctivitis is often undiagnosed and inappropriately treated with potentially hazardous consequences to vision.

Key Points

  • Allergic diseases affect one in four Australian children. More than 75% of allergic conjunctivitis sufferers report an adverse effect of this condition on their quality of life.
  • The most common type of allergic conjunctivitis is seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.
  • Itch is the hallmark symptom of ocular allergy. If it is not a prominent symptom, the diagnosis of a red eye should be reconsidered.
  • Rarer forms of ocular allergies include atopic keratoconjunctivitis and vernal keratoconjunctivitis, both of which may threaten vision.
  • Potent, well-tolerated topical mast cell stabilisers have greatly improved the management of ocular allergy.
  • There is no role for corticosteroids in treating patients with seasonal or perennial allergic conjunctivitis. Their use in other forms of allergic disease should always be under the supervision of an ophthalmologist.