Ocular allergy guidelines: a practical treatment algorithm

Drugs. 2002;62(11):1611-34. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200262110-00004.


The treatment of ocular allergy requires a better understanding of the spectrum of clinical disorders involving various components of the immune system, and of interactions at the conjunctival surface. The immune response focuses primarily on the different levels of activity of Th2 lymphocytes and various other immune cells associated with allergic disorders, including mast cells, eosinophils, fibroblasts, and epithelial and endothelial cells. Ocular allergic disorders include seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC), perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC), vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC), giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) and atopic keratoconjunctivitis (AKC), which, through immunopathological and molecular immunological techniques, can all be better appreciated as being part of a larger spectrum of an atopic disease state. In SAC, pathological changes, such as increased mast-cell activation, the presence of migratory inflammatory cells, and early signs of cellular activation at the molecular level, are minimal. In PAC, these changes are more pronounced in line with the increased duration of allergenic stimulation. In more chronic forms of allergic conjunctivitis, such as VKC in children and AKC in adults, the following changes are evident: a persistent state of mast cell, eosinophil and lymphocyte activation; noted switching from connective-tissue to mucosal-type mast cells; increased involvement of corneal pathology; and follicular development and fibrosis. The treatment of acute and more chronic forms of allergic conjunctivitis has focused in the past on symptomatic relief of symptoms, but with a better understanding of the mechanisms involved we can now provide interventional therapeutic strategies and symptomatic relief. Our advances in the basic understanding of these conditions are providing the foundation for guidelines that improve the ocular health of patients with ocular allergies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Allergic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / drug therapy*
  • Histamine H2 Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Histamine H2 Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Allergic Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Histamine H2 Antagonists