ICON: Diagnosis and management of allergic conjunctivitis

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2020 Feb;124(2):118-134. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2019.11.014. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Ocular allergy (OA), interchangeably known as allergic conjunctivitis, is a common immunological hypersensitivity disorder affecting up to 40% of the population. Ocular allergy has been increasing in frequency, with symptoms of itching, redness, and swelling that significantly impacts an individual's quality of life (QOL). Ocular allergy is an often underdiagnosed and undertreated health problem, because only 10% of patients with OA symptoms seek medical attention, whereas most patients manage with over-the-counter medications and complementary nonpharmacological remedies. The clinical course, duration, severity, and co-morbidities are varied and depend, in part, on the specific ocular tissues that are affected and on immunologic mechanism(s) involved, both local and systemic. It is frequently associated with allergic rhinitis (commonly recognized as allergic rhino conjunctivitis), and with other allergic comorbidities. The predominance of self-management increases the risk of suboptimal therapy that leads to recurrent exacerbations and the potential for development of more chronic conditions that can lead to corneal complications and interference with the visual axis. Multiple, often co-existing causes are seen, and a broad differential diagnosis for OA, increasing the difficulty of arriving at the correct diagnosis(es). Ocular allergy commonly overlaps with other anterior ocular disease disorders, including infectious disorders and dry eye syndromes. Therefore, successful management includes overcoming the challenges of underdiagnosis and even misdiagnosis by a better understanding of the subtleties of an in-depth patient history, ophthalmologic examination techniques, and diagnostic procedures, which are of paramount importance in making an accurate diagnosis of OA. Appropriate cross-referral between specialists (allergists and eyecare specialists) would maximize patient care and outcomes. This would significantly improve OA management and overcome the unmet needs in global health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / diagnosis*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / etiology
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Symptom Assessment