A patient walks into my office with a puffy, red and irritated eye. The first question might be: What does the loser of the fight look like? The only problem is there has been no fight and the patient has no idea how their eye got like that. This is a classic case of contact dermatitis, a specific type of delayed hypersensitivity – immune system reaction – that typically takes 2-3 days to develop and can last up to 2-3 weeks.

There are two basic flavors of this kind of reaction. Irritant-based reactions may include reactions to hair dyes, pesticides or weed killers, rubber gloves or shampoos. The other type would be an allergy-based reaction to things like adhesives, antibiotics, fabrics, perfumes, nickel, or plant or insect toxins. The skin around the eyes is particularly prone to this kind of reaction because it is thinner than the rest of the body. Because of this, there is a better chance that a substance will diffuse deep enough, and enough cells will be exposed, to cause a problem.

This is a localized reaction. The body is attempting to wall off and prevent the spread of the substance to the rest of the body. A similar, body-type reaction can develop that may require more immediate medical attention.

If you are prone to allergies, you are more at risk for these problems. Signs of a more widespread problem include breaking out in hives, wheezing, sneezing, shortness of breath, light headedness or loss of consciousness, abdominal cramps and/or a feeling of impending doom. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

If you have a question concerning your eyes, ask Dr. Picken directly by going to prairievisioncenter.com and select the “Ask the Dr.” link

DR. Jace Picken is an optometrist at Prairie Vision Center in Wahpeton

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