About Itchy Eyes:
An itchy eye, medically known as ocular pruritus, is a problem that is quite common and can occur to any person, at any time. It is one of the most common eye problems that bring a person to the ophthalmologists. Though it apparently seems to be a very minor problem, it can sometimes be an initial stage for a serious eye problem that may even lead to vision loss.
Usually, itchy eyes are associated with allergies. However, sometimes, your eyes may feel itchy when there is an infection, when they are irritated by some irritants or even when there is a hormonal change. In most cases, itchy eyes are not a serious problem, but your day-to-day life may be affected by this. Also, when you try to fall asleep, itchy eyes can be really irritating and cause hindrance from falling asleep.
Symptoms Associated with Itchy Eyes
When your eyes are itchy, you will also encounter some other symptoms such as –
- Redness in the eyes
- Excessive tearing from the eyes
- Swelling of the eyes.
These are the most common symptoms that can be encountered along with the itchy eyes. However, when the cause of itchy eyes is something serious and severe, the symptoms include –
- Red eye
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Sensitivity of the eyes to light
- Gritty feeling in the eyes
- Thickening of eyelids
- Thick, mucus like discharge from the eyes that cause the eyelids to stick together.
If your symptoms are something as serious as this, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible and seek the right treatment. The doctor will identify the cause and treat the condition accordingly.
Causes of Itchy Eyes
As already mentioned, itchy eyes can be caused by a number of reasons. They can be caused by allergens or some infection or sometimes, itchy eyes are just a symptom of some other underlying eye disease. Here is a brief discussion on the common causes of itchy eyes.
Allergens Causing Itchy Eyes:
Allergy is the most common reason behind itchy eyes. Allergens like animal dander, pollen from grass or weed or even dust particles etc. can cause itchiness of the eyes. Basically, when these allergens come in close contact with the eyes, they produce chemical named histamine, which actually irritates the skin of the eyelids as well as the eyeball and cause the itchiness.
You can have seasonal allergy which are caused by pollen or something similar, which can be found only in particular seasons like spring or fall and are commonly known as seasonal conjunctivitis. You can also have perennial allergy, which are caused by allergens that are not seasonal, but present in the air all year round such as dust or mold.
If you are allergic to any of these, you will not only have itchy eyes, but also symptoms like sneezing or a runny nose. This will help you to identify the cause of the itchy eyes as an allergy to something. Here, it must also be mentioned that often, itchy eyes that are caused by allergens and also come along with other symptoms such as runny nose and sneezing, are mistaken to be cold. However, if you have cold, you will not have itchy eyes. You may have fever, but itchy eyes are not a symptom for cold. So, do not ignore the condition, mistaking it to be cold.
Along with the common seasonal and perennial allergens, your eyes may also be sensitive to or be allergic to some chemical allergens. These can be anything such as a soap or lotion that you are using, the contact lens solution that you are using, eye makeup remover or even an artificial tear maker to treat your dry eye problem.
Eye Problems Can Cause Itchy Eyes:
There are certain eye conditions that can also cause itchy eyes. These include meibomian gland dysfunction or dry eye syndrome. If you have blepharitis or inflammation and redness of the eyes, which is a condition that is caused by bacteria that live on the eyelids, then also you may have itchy eyes.
Straining the Eyes:
The eyes are one of the most sensitive body parts and if you strain them, they feel uncomfortable and become itchy. When you focus your eyes on something for a long time, you will strain your eyes. These can be anything such as a smartphone or a tablet or even a computer screen. The eyes are very sensitive to light. So, when you do not rest the eyes and make them work for long hours by continuous staring at light-emitting devices, your eyes will be strained, tired and sore. You will feel a burning sensation, dryness and your eyes will start to itch. This dryness from straining the eyes is one of the most common reasons behind itchy eyes.
Debris in the Eyes to Cause Itchy Eyes:
Sometimes, the cause of itchy eyes is superficial debris or a dust particle that enters the eyes. Usually these foreign particles are prohibited by the eyelashes. Still, until they are removed from the surface of the eye, they cause itchiness and tearing.
Other Causes of Itchy Eyes:
If you are a contact lens wearer and if you wear the contact lens for too long and do not change them frequently, then you will have itchy eyes. This can make wearing the contact lens very uncomfortable.
Diagnosing Itchy Eyes
If you have itchy eyes, there are a number of questions that your doctor would ask you. The purpose is to diagnose the duration, the onset and the frequency of the symptoms. These questions are –
- Do your eyes itch sometimes or they feel itchy throughout the year?
- Do you have skin diseases or problems such as eczema, skin rhinitis or rashes in the skin?
- Do you have asthma?
- Do you feel a foreign body sensation in your eyes?
- Do your eyes tear?
- Do you feel a burning sensation?
- Do you feel any triggers, exposure to which leads to itchy eyes?
- Do you wear contact lenses?
- Do you frequently/sometimes use eye products like makeup remover, lotions, creams or even soaps? Have you recently used them?
The answer to these questions will help the doctor to understand if you have an allergy, skin problem or dry eyes or other eye problems and identify the right reason behind the condition.
Treatment for Itchy Eyes
Treatment for the itchy eyes is always associated with the cause behind the condition. Once the cause has been identified, addressing the cause and treating it is not difficult.
Allergy Eye Drops to Treat Itchy Eyes:
Dryness of the eyes is one of the most common causes of itchy eyes. Therefore, the most common treatment for itchy eyes is an over the counter eye drop that creates artificial tears or moistens the eyes. As the dryness is reduced, the itchiness goes away slowly.
Antihistamines for Itchy Eyes:
If the cause of the itchy eyes is an allergen that is producing histamine in the eyes and causing the itchiness, antihistamines are prescribed by the doctor. This will reduce the itchiness. Patients of allergic conjunctivitis are given this. Those, who have severe symptoms, mast-cell stabilizers as well as topical NSAIDs and corticosteroids are prescribed to them. But, these require frequent follow-ups and caution must be taken by the doctor.
Home Remedies to Treat Itchy Eyes:
Sometimes, simple home remedies or home treatments are enough to get rid of the itchy eyes. These include:
When the cause of the itchiness in your eyes is something as superficial as a foreign particle such as debris or dust, rinsing the eyes with running water is an effective measure for treating the itchiness. You can also pour the water from a glass for 10 to 15 minutes and the particle will be washed away.
If the cause of the itchiness is wearing contact lenses, remove the contact lenses at once and avoid wearing them until you feel the itchiness to have disappeared completely. Also, try an entirely new set of contact lenses, as the previous one might not be suitable for you anymore.
Home remedies are specific to the cause of the itchiness.
Maintaining Hygiene for Itchy Eyes:
If you have blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction, maintaining a good hygiene for your eyelids is a must. For that you can scrub your eyelids and clean them using baby shampoo at least twice a day. Also, you should do warm compress on your eyelids and use artificial tears to lubricate your eyes and thereby, avoid itchiness.
Preventing Itchy Eyes
If you have a tendency of getting itchy eyes, it is a must that you take some preventive measures. These would include –
- Keeping the windows shut as much as possible in order to avoid pollen and other allergens, especially during spring and fall.
- Using a humidifier, in order to keep a control on the mold in the inside air.
- Using mild makeup remover that does not irritate the eyes. Also, make sure that you remove your makeup before going to bed as the chemical from the makeup can also cause itchiness. Use normal water for cleaning your eyes, as much as possible, rather than any other chemical based makeup remover.
- Rest your eyes for some time while you are working and avoid staring at the screen constantly.
- Remove contact lenses in regular intervals.
- Wear glasses or contact lenses if you need them, and do not strain your eyes or squint your eyes for a better vision.
If you follow these preventive measures, it will help you to avoid getting itchy eyes. If you still get itchiness in your eyes repeatedly, see a doctor.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2021). Itchy Eyes (Ocular Pruritus). https://www.aao.org/eye-health/symptoms/itchy-eyes
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Itchy Eyes (Ocular Pruritus). https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/itchy-eyes/basics/definition/sym-20050896
- All About Vision. (2021). Itchy Eyes (Ocular Pruritus): Causes and Treatments. https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/itchy-eyes.htm