An update on ocular allergy trends

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

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 allergic conjunctivitis sufferers get by daily.

Figured 1: surveyed demographics

Concerns

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.Rosario N, Bielory L. Epidemiology of allergic conjunctivitis. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011;11:471-476. In an epidemiologic study 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.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. 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 the most common eye complaints in patients with allergic rhinitis were also watery eyes, itchy eyes, and red eyes.Blaiss MS. Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: burden of disease. Allergy Asthma Proc. 2007;28:393-397. 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.Schatz M. A survey of the burden of allergic rhinitis

Timing of allergy symptoms table

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 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, 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 disease characteristics, treatment strategies, and satisfaction with their current therapeutic regimes.

The 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. About 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 on Page 13).

The second-most reported complaint, after ocular itching, was excessive tearing or watery eyes, followed by ocular redness (Table 2 on page 13).

A high percentage of respondents also reported not seeking treatments for allergies (Table 3 on Page 13).

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

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

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

 

This survey 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.