Itchy Eyes
Causes, Related Conditions, Questions & Related Topics


Top 6 Itchy Eyes Causes

1. Irritants

Irritants like cigarette smoke, perfumes, smog, and chlorine can irritate the eyes and cause a burning feeling, discharge, and/or itching.[1] Avoiding these irritants can often help prevent itchy eyes.

2. Contact Lenses

Wearers of contact lenses are at risk for irritation and infections that may cause itchy eyes. Dirty lenses and contaminated lens cases and lens solution can be the cause of itchy eyes; In addition, certain brands of contact solution and wearing lenses that have been exposed to water can irritate the eyes.[2] Itchy eyes caused by contact lenses may be prevented by cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses regularly or switching to eyeglasses.

3. Makeup

Eye makeup, such as eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow often contains chemicals that can irritate the eyes and cause itching. Use of novelty makeup and face paint has also been linked with itchy eyes. Old makeup can cause similar irritation.[3] Makeup can collect bacteria over time and with every use; therefore, it should be replaced every 3 or 4 months to reduce the risk of infection and itchy eyes.[4]

4. Beauty Products

Health and beauty products, such as shampoos, lotions, creams, hairsprays, and hair dyes may contain chemicals and ingredients that cause itchy eyes upon contact. Taking steps to prevent these products from entering the eyes can often help prevent itchy eyes and related symptoms.

5. Digital Eye Strain

Looking at screens on digital devices, including computers, televisions, and cell phones for long periods of time can lead to digital eye strain and itchy eyes.[5] Taking frequent breaks to look at objects across the room can often help prevent digital eye strain and its symptoms.

6. Foreign Objects

Foreign objects like dirt and sand can enter the eyes and cause itching, soreness, and burning. Wearing sunglasses can sometimes help prevent wind from blowing these types of foreign objects into the eyes. Eyelashes, makeup, and contact lenses are other types of foreign objects that can irritate the eyes.

Possible Health Conditions Related to Itchy Eyes

1. Allergic Conjunctivitis

Itchy eyes are a symptom of allergic conjunctivitis, which occurs when the clear layer of tissue covering the white of the eye becomes swollen or inflamed due to exposure to allergens. Pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and mold are some of the common allergens that may cause allergic conjunctivitis. Other symptoms of this eye condition include puffy eyelids, tearing, and a burning feeling in the eyes.[6]

2. Pink Eye

Pink eye is when the thin, clear tissue that covers the white of the eye becomes inflamed. Pink eye can be caused by exposing the eyes to bacteria, irritants, or allergens. Pink eye may also be caused by viruses that trigger inflammation of the eyes. Itchy eyes are one of the main symptoms of pink eye, along with redness, swelling, increased tearing, eye discharge, and crusting of the eyelids or eyelashes.[7]

3. Dry Eye

Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the eyes are unable to maintain a sufficient amount of tears to keep the eyes moist and lubricated. Dry eye may be caused by smoking, sunlight exposure, cold or allergy medicines, and spending time in dry or windy environments. Itchy eyes are a common symptom of dry eye syndrome, along with blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and a gritty or scratchy feeling in the eye.[8]

4. Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an eye condition characterized by itching, inflammation, irritation, and redness of the eyelids. Blepharitis is believed to be caused by exposure to bacteria and is more common in people who suffer from allergies, rosacea, and a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis. Other symptoms of blepharitis in addition to itching include crusting of the eyelids and the growth of scales that stick to the base of eyelashes.[9]

5. Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the glands that produce tears and saliva are attacked by immune cells. Sjogren's syndrome is more common in women than in men and is characterized by symptoms including itchy eyes, dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue, and swollen saliva glands. This autoimmune disorder is thought to be caused by genetics, viral infections, and hormonal imbalances.[10]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Itchy Eyes:

  • Do you suffer from allergies?
  • When did you first start experiencing itchy eyes?
  • What other symptoms accompany your itchy eyes?
  • Do your eyes itch only at certain times of the day?
  • How much time do you spend per day looking at digital screens?
  • Are there certain factors that trigger your itchy eyes?
  • How long do your eyes normally itch?
  • How do you normally find relief from itchy eyes?
  • Do you wear contact lenses?
  • Do you spend a lot of time outdoors or in environments that expose your eyes to chemicals and irritants?
  • What treatments have you tried to relieve itchy eyes?

Itchy Eyes May Also be Known as:

  • Ocular pruritus
  • Red eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Pink eye
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Eye allergies

References:

  1. Medline Plus. Eye burning - itching and discharge. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003034.htm
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Contact Lens Risks. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/contact-lenses/contact-lens-risks
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Novelty Makeup. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/novelty-makeup
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center. Old Makeup Can Cause Serious Eye Infections. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=724
  5. National Library of Medicine. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6020759/
  6. Medline Plus. Allergic conjunctivitis. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001031.htm
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pink Eye: Usually Mild and Easy to Treat. https://www.cdc.gov/features/conjunctivitis/index.html
  8. Medline Plus. Dry eye syndrome. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000426.htm
  9. Medline Plus. Blepharitis. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001619.htm
  10. UW Medicine Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Sjogren's Syndrome. http://www.orthop.washington.edu/patient-care/articles/arthritis/sjogrens-syndrome.html

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