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Why Are My Eyes Itchy: Causes and Treatment

Eyes usually get red, sore, irritated and itchy because something in the environment triggers an allergic reaction or because of dust and other particles in the air. It is not a serious condition, one that typically gets treated with eye drops. But if the itchiness doesn’t abate, you should see your eye doctor.

man with itchy eyes

Overview

Itchy eyes can be uncomfortable and may keep you from performing your day-to-day tasks. Understanding what is making your eyes itch will help you treat the problem and relieve your pain and discomfort.

You can also work with your doctor to learn ways to prevent your eyes from itching in the future. The more you are able to protect your eyes, the less discomfort you will experience.

Causes of Itchy Eyes

There are many causes for itchy eyes. Some are preventable, others are not. Knowing your environment is beneficial, particularly if you already know what triggers your symptoms. The most well-known causes include:

  • Allergies (hay fever): Exposure to allergens like pollen, dust and other irritants
  • Dust: Exposure to an excessive amount of dust particles in the air
  • Dry contact lenses: Poor contact hygiene can cause them to become dry and irritated
  • Eye infections: Sometimes known as pink eye or conjunctivitis, these are caused by bacteria that make their way into the eye
  • Swimming: Chemicals in pool water can dry out your eyes
  • Atomic dermatitis: A form of eczema that affects the eyes

Most of these conditions cause similar symptoms of redness, excessive watering, soreness, irritation, lesions and dryness.

There are times, even when you take care of your eyes as you should, that you will still experience some degree of discomfort. As soon as you notice any soreness or discomfort in your eyes or around them, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to find out what treatment options are available.

In the meantime, some things to remember:

Don’t rub your eyes.

Don’t Rub Your Eyes

No matter how badly your eyes may itch, don’t rub your eyes! Although rubbing your eyes may make them feel better for a few seconds, it can actually more damage and lead to other problems that are much more serious. Rubbing your eyes can cause your corneas to be scratched and irritated. And when you place your fingers near your eyes, bacteria can make their way inside your eye. The more you rub your eyes, the more likely they are to become infected.

Itchy Eyes Relief

You have several options available if you are experiencing red, irritated, and itchy eyes. Many of these options are available without a doctor’s visit:

  • Remove your contacts and practice proper lens care to ensure minimal irritation
  • Shower at night to prevent pollen and allergens from remaining on your clothes and hair
  • Keep your windows closed to keep allergens out of your home
  • Change your bedding and clean your home frequently
  • Cold compresses can be used to minimize itching and irritation
  • Artificial tears can minimize discomfort and ease itching and redness
  • Oral medications prescribed by your doctor to ease your allergy symptoms

If your symptoms persist and your eyes continue to be irritated, you will need to schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist to ensure there is not an underlying cause that you are not aware of.

If allergies are your primary concern, you may be able to begin immunotherapy treatments to better control your symptoms.

Prevention

To prevent red, irritated and itchy eyes, your best plan of action is proper eye care. Many contact lens wearers do not take proper care of their contacts and rarely follow their eye doctor’s orders.

This leaves the door open for eye infections and damage to the corneas. In addition, you should remove your contacts before swimming or showering. Wear goggles when you go swimming. This prevents them from becoming irritated from chemicals and other irritants. 

If you have allergies, treat them according to your doctor’s orders. Finally, if you want to reduce your exposure to airborne allergens, clean your home often and avoid exposing yourself to known irritants.

A case of itchy eyes is one of the most common eye conditions we face. Knowing why your eyes are irritated will help you find the right treatment options to make them feel better.

It’s important to not just treat the symptoms. Address the cause and the symptoms will gradually fade on their own.

References

  1. Itchy Eyes. (July 2020). Health Direct (Australia).

  2. Why Are My Eyes Itchy? Answers From an Expert. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

  3. Preventing Itchy and Runny Eyes. (January 2019). The Urgency Room.

Last Updated May 16, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.