IS CAT DANDER MAKING MY EYES ITCH?

Dr. Jim Martin 03/28/2014

cat-heart-sunglasses.jpgCats are a joy for many people. They provide companionship and are a part of the family. However, the dander they put off may be affecting your eye allergies.

How can you tell if you are allergic to cat dander?

You probably already suspect you have such an allergy. When you get around a cat, you may start experiencing eyes that are dry, watery, or itchy. The area around the eye may become swollen and take on a puffy appearance. The eyelids may swell, get red and even be a bit painful. Besides eye symptoms, someone with an allergy to cat dander may have nasal discharge and coughing.

For some people the symptoms show up quickly. For others, it may take a few days after exposure for the symptoms to appear. The symptoms may remain for days or weeks after being away from cats.

Why is cat dander such a common cause of eye allergies?

Many people have sensitivity to pet dander. Some people are sensitive to both cat and dog dander. Many people are more sensitive to cat dander though.

Feline dander contains a particular substance that is the main cause of the problem. This component, known as Fel D1, is a glycoprotein found in a cat's skin as well as its saliva. Skin cells have a fair amount of this substance even in a dry state. When a cat cleans its fur and skin, the Fel D1 in the saliva adds additional amounts.

The amounts of Fel D1 can vary from cat to cat. Cats that have not been fixed have more than neutered ones. Males have more than females. Some cat breeds have lower amounts that others.

Now, dander is not the same as the dandruff you may find. These microscopic bits are 1/10th the size of a dust mite and are not visible to the naked eye. Dander is the bits of dry skin that animals of all types shed naturally. Cats have it. Dogs have it. Humans have it. The difference though is that the dander cats shed have the added Fel D1 substance added.

When these microscopic bits become airborne, they can enter any opening in the body, including the eyes. The dander hits the surface of the eye and triggers an allergic reaction. The body releases histamine as a result of this reaction. Histamine is what triggers the eye allergies.

Is there a solution to cat dander eye allergies?

An eye doctor can help you with these allergies. The doctor can evaluate your symptoms and conduct testing to verify that you do have an allergy to cat dander. If the tests come back positive, treatment is the next step. Treatment for this type of allergies are simple and effective.

The doctor may prescribe eye drops to reduce symptoms. They may prescribe oral medications which fight the release of histamines from within. It may take a few tries to find the right medication combination, but this type of allergy is manageable.

If you think you may have eye allergies due to cat dander, or any other eye allergies, give us a call here at Broome Optical in Amarillo, Texas. Many people in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle suffer from eye allergies, not just in the spring, but year-round. Contact Broome Optical today to make an appointment so we can help you get your eye allergies under control. 

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