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    New Medications Offer Faster Relief for Eye Allergies

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    "In most cases, the symptoms of ocular allergies are mild to moderate," Basuk says, "but in a few severe cases, people can lose their vision. For them, these allergy medications are crucial in saving their sight."

    The third new drug, Alamast, by Santen Inc., has been approved by the FDA and will be available in a few weeks. It is an improved mast-cell stabilizer, and also comes in drop form.

    This drug should be used before symptoms start, because it takes a few days before the itching stops, Gregg J. Berdy, MD, an eye allergy specialist and clinical instructor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, tells WebMD. He was involved in the clinical testing of Alamast.

    "It's also the most comfortable drug of its kind because it doesn't sting," he says.

    Before prescribing any medications, doctors must confirm that the conjunctivitis is due to an allergy rather than being the symptom of another problem, such as an infection. The doctor may first try prescription-strength antihistamines. If these fail to quell the inflammation and itching, the next step could be one of these new drugs.

    Before calling the doctor, though, there are some other things allergy sufferers can try, Berdy advises.

    "Begin by using over-the-counter tear substitutes and cold compresses," he says, "and some people will benefit from over-the-counter antihistamines used in conjunction with the artificial tears."

    Vital Information:

    • New drugs are available for allergic conjunctivitis that are faster acting and easier to use, but further studies are needed to prove whether they are more effective than older drugs.
    • The new drugs, along with older antihistamines and mast-cell stabilizers, are alternatives to steroids, which are highly effective but have serious side effects.
    • If symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis -- redness, swelling, tearing, and itching -- are mild to moderate, try applying cold compresses to the eyes and using over-the-counter medications (oral antihistamines, artificial tears) before calling the doctor.
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