This is a very common condition usually affecting both lids, but occasionally only one eye is involved. Contact dermatitis can be caused by exposure to a sutstance to which the patient is allergic. The most common offending agents are poison oak, pollens (in the spring), make-up, eye drops, and over-the-counter ointments.
Some materials also act as irritants and, although they do not cause true allergic reactions, their symptoms may be identical to those for allergic dermatitis. Common irritants are soaps, acids, solvents, and detergents. Symptoms include redness, and swelling of the lids, sometimes a watery discharge is noticed. Crusting and weeping lids may also develop.
Treatment may include one or a combination of the following therapies:
- Topical ointment, which reduces swelling, redness and irritation, applied two or three times daily. Ointment also soothes the cracked skin that often accompanies the allergy.
- Oral antihistamines help to control the itching and swelling as well. Their only side effect is a tendency toward drowsiness.
- Cool compresses are of comfort and sometimes the most helpful of all treatments.
Identification of the offending agent and avoidance or elimination of that agent is the only long-lasting and sure cure. The assistance of an allergist may be a great help in finding a permanent solution to this problem.