Itching and Burning Eyes

By Eyecare NG

Causes   |  Prevention   |   Treatment   |   What to do 

Symptoms of itching and burning are common and tend to occur together in most cases.

Causes of Itching and Burning

Common causes of itching and burning include allergies, dry eye syndrome, blepharitis and some medications.

Allergy

Allergy is a major cause of itching and burning. However, itching is more prominent under this condition.

A common allergic condition of the eye is allergic conjunctivitis. This is an inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by exposure to allergens such as pollen, danders, dust, smoke and chemicals substances. When the eye is exposed to an allergen, the cells in the eye tissues may get destabilized causing them to release some chemicals. These chemicals such as histamine cause the sensation of itching. Itching can be associated with burning sensation and other symptoms such as swollen lids and conjunctiva, redness, watering and stringy (thread-like) discharges. In some types of eye allergy, the white part of the eyes becomes milky or brown in colour.

Allergy can be seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergies tend to occur at a certain period of the year while perennial allergy can occur all year round.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the front surface of the eye dries out either due to insufficient tear film, infrequent blinking or poor tear quality and quantity. A lot of conditions can cause dry eyes. Some of the conditions include; lagophthalmos, thyroid eye disease, floppy eyelid syndrome, computer vision syndrome, blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction as well as environmental conditions like the use of fans and air conditioners, exposure to smoke or smoking. While burning is a prominent symptom of dry eyes, other symptoms include itching, redness, blurry vision and tearing.

Blepharitis

This is the inflammation of the eyelid margins. It causes lid swelling, redness, itching along the lid margin and crusts on the eye lashes. Blepharitis is caused by some bacteria especially the staphylococcus species that are normally seen on the skin.

Medications

Some medications like the over the counter drugs can cause itching and burning. Some dehydrate the tear film, while others contain substances that cause allergic reactions.

Ways to Prevent Itching and Burning

  • Identify the root cause of your itching and burning and take measures to avoid or limit them.
  • Wear protective eye wear if you work in a dusty environment.
  • In the allergy (pollen) season, try to stay indoors more or take precautions to avoid allergens.
  • Use room humidifiers to increase moisture in the room.
  • Wear wrap around glasses if you drive with your car windows down. Alternatively, wind up your car windows while driving.
  • Take good care of your contact lenses, ensuring that you follow your eye doctor’s recommendations on the use, care and replacement of your lenses.
  • Avoid smoking or exposing your eyes to smoke.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet rich in vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids.

Treatment of Itching and Burning

The best way to treat or manage itching and burning is to take care of the underlying cause. Anti-allergic drops and tablets which contain anti-histamines, mast cell stabilizers or both are often used to take care of itching. Lubricating drops and ointments (artificial tears) are normally used for burning sensation. Eye doctors may prescribe other classes of medications such as steroids depending on the cause of itching and burning.

What To Do When Your Eyes Itch or Burn

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes. This worsens the condition. You could injure your eyes or introduce germs into them when you rub them.
  • Use cold water to do compresses around your eyes.
  • You can use humidifiers to increase moisture in the room.
  • If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them. Clean and store your contact lenses properly or discard them if they are expired. Afterwards, give your eyes some time to rest before putting them on again.
  • If you have been working on your computer for a long time, take time away from the computer to rest your eyes.
  • Use over the counter lubricating and anti-allergic drops. However, avoid decongestants as they can worsen your condition.
  • Make a conscious effort to blink often.
  • If the condition gets worse or does not improve within 24 hours, see your eye doctor.