Itchy eyes

What causes itchy eyes?

Most commonly, sore red itchy eyes are caused either by a reaction to a cosmetic item used on the face, environmental allergens such as pollen, or are a result of an infection. Whether its pollen, dust or another irritating agent, a group of compounds named histamines are released in the eyes, leading to irritation and itchiness, and sometimes resulting in redness and swelling.

Hay fever, caused by pollen during spring and summer, is one of the most common allergies for causing sore red itchy eyes. Other environmental agents such as dust and mites can cause allergies all year round. However, it isn’t always allergies from nature that cause itchy eyes. If your eyes are becoming red and itchy, it could be because you’ve just started using a new product (fabric softener or shampoo etc.) that you’re allergic to. Consider opting for household and personal products that contain less artificial ingredients.

How to stop rubbing your eyes

Rubbing your eyes may seem harmless and may even give you some relief in the short term but it is highly advisable that you try not to. Your hands carry germs that will transfer onto your eyes and may worsen your eyes. Rubbing your eyes too hard can also break the tiny blood vessels around your eyes, causing your eyes to look more blood shot and aggravated. Avoid rubbing your eyes altogether, even when the temptation to occurs, use other methods of relief to soothe your eyes.

How to stop itchy eyes

Preventative measures should also be taken, not just to avoid worsening of itchy eyes, but to limit the possibility of a reoccurrence after your eyes get better.

If you’re suffering from sore red itchy eyes and you wear contact lenses, the first thing you should do is take your lenses out until your eyes are back to their normal state. Wear prescription glasses in the meantime while your eyes recover to avoid aggravating the issue.

You should also avoid using cosmetics that may worsen the condition. Cosmetics that are highly perfumed, contain oils, unnatural additives, artificial colouring, material pigments such as glitter and preservatives may contribute to making itchy eyes worse. Many companies now specialise in products that contain natural ingredients, less likely to aggravate the sensitive area around the eye.

If you are a hay fever sufferer, if possible, stay away from areas where there is a lot of grass and other vegetation when there is a high pollen count. Wrap-around sunglasses will also help to create a barrier around your eyes. It is probably best to wear prescription glasses during this time or opt for daily disposable contact lenses if you must wear lenses.

How to treat itchy eyes

In most cases, itchy eyes can be treated with medication or prescription eye drops. These drops are called anti-histamines and mast cell stabilisers. In more severe cases, steroid eye drops are also used to prevent chronic eye rubbing, especially in allergy sufferers. [1]

It’s important to remember to avoid rubbing your eyes, even if they are itchy. While rubbing your eyes may provide immediate relief, in the long run, it will irritate your eye area even more.

You may find that applying a damp and cold cloth to your closed eyes can help soothe the feeling of itchiness around your eyes. An eye mask is also a great option for relieving sore and itchy eyes. The Feel Good Contacts Eye Doctor Allergy Allergy mask is perfect for hay fever suffers who need immediate relief from puffy and sore eyes, as well as headaches. Alternatively, the Thera Pearl Eye Mask by manufacturer Bausch and Lomb can act as both a hot or cold compress, depending on your preference.

If your symptoms persist or worsen, it is best to speak to an optician or GP who can provide the best advice for treatment.

Quick links:

Top tips for contact lenses and allergies
A guide to swollen eyelids