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Itchy eyes-causes and treatments
Medically reviewed by Alastair Lockwood on 14 January 2021
Itchy eyes are very common and can be extremely uncomfortable. Most of the time, it's not a massive cause for concern and is usually the result of an allergy or minor eyelid margin infection (blepharitis). Knowing the cause of your itchy eyes is essential in finding the right treatment. It is important to know the differences between a symptom of an allergy and an infection so you can provide adequate relief without making itchy eyes worse.
What causes itchy eyes?
Histamines cause itchy eyes. These group of compounds are released in the eyes in response to irritants. This leads to itchiness, and sometimes redness and swelling. The following can be causes of itchy eyes:
Itchy eyes are often a symptom of conjunctivitis, which is usually accompanied by eye discharge, red eyes, and a burning sensation. An infection can cause conjunctivitis. You should see your doctor if you suspect you may have it.
Overwearing your contact lenses or failing to replace them regularly can lead to dry and itchy eyes.
If you wear contact lenses, make sure to remove them at night (unless they are extended wear lenses prescribed by your optician) and follow the appropriate lens care regime.
This is an inflammation of the eyelids, which can cause red or itchy eyes. Keeping your eyelids clean can help to prevent and resolve symptoms of blepharitis. Blephaclean Eye Wipes are an effective way of maintaining eyelid hygiene while Blephasol Lotion will help to soothe symptoms of blepharitis.
In some cases, blepharitis can last a long time and can even be a chronic eye condition which leads to other complications such as conjunctivitis. Antibiotics made be prescribed to relieve symptoms in these cases.
Dry eyes occur when tear production is disrupted as tears keep our eyes moist and hydrated.
Eye allergies often cause itchy, sore eyes. There are certain times in the year, often referred to as 'allergy season' or 'pollen season' when one may have an allergic reaction to pollen, causing sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy eyes. You can reduce these symptoms by avoiding contact with the allergens.
Other allergies can last all year long and are caused by things such as pet dander, mold, dust and even toiletries. Products such as contact lens solution and shampoo can cause perennial allergies.
Spending an excessive amount of time in front of a computer screen can cause itchy eyes as well as blurry vision, headaches and discomfort. This is known as computer vision syndrome.
How to stop itchy eyes?
There are many ways to get rid of itchy eyes. Preventative measures should also be taken, not just to avoid worsening your sore, red itchy eyes, but also to limit the possibility of a reoccurrence. In some cases, following a good eye care regime can help to prevent itchy eyes in the first place.
If you're suffering from itchy and irritated 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 which are less likely to aggravate the sensitive area around the eye.
If you are a hay fever sufferer, try to stay away from areas where there is a lot of grass and other vegetation when there is a high pollen count. Wrap sunglasses will also help to create a barrier around your eyes. It is probably best to wear prescription glasses during allergy season or opt for daily disposable contact lenses if you must wear lenses.
Is rubbing itchy eyes bad?
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 bloodshot and aggravated.
Avoid rubbing your eyes altogether, even when the temptation to do so occurs, use other methods of relief to soothe your eyes.
How to treat itchy eyes?
In most cases, treatment options for itchy eyes include medication or prescription eye drops. These drops are allergy drops called antihistamines and mast cell stabilisers. In more severe cases, steroid eye drops are also used to prevent chronic itchy eyes, especially in allergy sufferers.
You may find that applying a damp, cold cloth to your closed eyes can help soothe the feeling of itchiness around your eyes.
An eye mask can also be used to relieve sore and itchy eyes. The Eye Doctor 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. This mask can be used for treating dry eyes and a range of other eye conditions.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, it is best to speak to an optician or GP who can provide the best advice for treatment.
When to see an Optician?
If you experience itchy eyes regularly, feel pain or notice any changes in your vision, you should arrange to see your optician immediately. They will be able to identify the cause of your itchy eyes and recommend the best treatment for you.
Quick links:How to stop itchy eyes from hay fever-for good?
A guide to eye discharge
A guide to red eyes