Can I Have Laser Eye Surgery if I Suffer from Hay Fever?
For most of us, the (hopefully) bright and sun-filled days of spring and summer can’t come soon enough after a dark and gloomy winter. Unfortunately, for a significant number of people in the UK, this change in weather comes with an undesirable side effect… hay fever.
Allergic rhinitis – better known as hay fever – is one of the most common allergies in the UK and many other countries around the world. In fact, a 2020 survey by Allergy UK suggests that up to 49% of people in the UK may suffer from hay fever symptoms.
This common allergy is actually an allergy to pollen from various plants, including trees and grass. Common symptoms of hay fever can include blocked and runny noses, sneezing, and of course, itchy and irritated eyes.
The springing forward of the clocks in March tends to coincide with the annual advertising spree of over-the-counter hayfever medication companies. Pharmacy shelves are stocked full of antihistamine tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops, all designed to combat the miserable symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Of course, the wide availability of hay fever products doesn’t always stop us from finding ourselves taken unawares by the sudden invasion of pollen. Most of us tend to wait until we are in the throes of the annual battle with the familiar nemesis before we take action.
“The problem with allergies is that most of us ignore them at the mild irritation stage – it’s only when it is really bad that we do something about it”, explains London Vision Clinic surgeon, Glenn Carp.
So, what if hay fever takes hold when you’re scheduled for Laser Eye Surgery treatment? Do hay fever sufferers have to avoid treatment in the spring and summer?
Hay Fever and Laser Eye Surgery
Itchy eyes are among the most common symptoms of hay fever and can leave sufferers with the irresistible urge to rub their eyes frantically in the hope of some relief. But rubbing your eyes is a big no-no during your recovery from Laser Eye Surgery. So, does that mean you can’t have treatment?
“Of course, we don’t want to treat anyone who is uncomfortable with inflamed eyes”, explains Glenn, “We would always treat the symptoms first.”
This can include sticking to any preventative measures that can help to soothe the symptoms of hay fever.
London Vision Clinic’s Top Tips To Avoid Hay Fever This Summer
- Do not rub your eyes. This will only inflame the irritation and result in further discomfort.
- Try to avoid pollen as much as possible, either by closing windows or keeping surfaces clear with damp dusters (the MET Office provides a daily pollen forecast).
- Try to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen and dust.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses when handling pollen, cleaning or gardening. These activities may result in particles getting stuck behind the lens, and causing increased irritation.
- Speak to your local pharmacist, and purchase an over-the-counter medication which is effective for hay fever.
- Seek professional advice from your optometrist or GP if your symptoms become severe.
What about after surgery?
Following Laser Eye Surgery, your eyes will be more sensitive than usual, which isn’t good news for those suffering from hay fever. However, there are things that can help.
During and after your Laser Eye Surgery procedure, we provide you with antibiotic eye drops – used to combat any possible infection. These eye drops are part of our routine aftercare procedure in addition to eye shields that should be worn to protect your eyes overnight.
“Over the first week, when the flap is starting to anchor itself down, the eyes are protected by the steroid drops,” Dr Carp explains.
“These are effective for at least a further week which means that patients are also getting two weeks of great protection for their eyes from hay fever.
“In addition, the lubricating eye drops (to prevent dry eye) help to flush out any allergens from the surface of the eye again reducing allergy stimulation – also easing the situation.”
Many Laser Eye Surgery patients who suffer from hay fever find that, while they may still be affected by high pollen levels, these measures are enough to reduce sensitivity. Of course, if this isn’t the case, anti-allergy eye drops are recommended.
Hay Fever and Contact Lenses
Wearing contact lenses can be an annoyance at the best of times. Crawling around on your hands and knees searching for that elusive dropped lens, and experiencing dry and irritated eyes, are common irritations to the frequent contact lens wearer. And when hay fever strikes, the irritation only gets worse.
Far from being a reason not to have the procedure, those who wear contact lenses may see hay fever as a reason to have Laser Eye Surgery.