10 Causes of Itchy Eyes - Home Remedies & When to See a Dr.

11 sources cited
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Why are My Eyes Itchy?

Itchy eyes may not be a serious cause for concern, but they can be very uncomfortable.

There are many reasons why your eyes may be itchy. Some reasons are more serious than others.

10 Causes of Itchy Eyes

Here are 10 reasons why your eyes might feel itchy:

1. Allergies and Irritants

Allergies range from seasonal allergies to perennial allergies.9

Seasonal allergies can occur if your body reacts to seasonal allergens like pollen in the air. Symptoms like itchy eyes are triggered by histamine, which is a compound your cells release to protect you against allergens.9

Perennial allergies are ongoing. They occur come from allergens like dust, mold, and pet dander.9

Other irritants that can cause your eyes to feel itchy include:

  • Smoke
  • Diesel exhaust
  • Smells from certain foods
  • Certain perfumes

2. Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is characterized by dry eyes. Dry eye syndrome can range from mild to severe.3

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include itchiness, redness, and blurry vision.3

3. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a condition in which the meibomian glands don’t secrete enough oil. It can also mean these glands secrete poor-quality oil.7

When your eyes don’t have enough moisture, they can feel itchy.

4. Blepharitis

Blepharitis refers to inflammation of the eyelids. It can make your eyes feel dry.2

Blepharitis is a common disorder. It’s caused by bacteria or other skin conditions, including dandruff or rosacea.2

5. Irritation From Contact Lenses

Contact lenses can cause discomfort if they don’t fit right or need to be replaced. They can also make your eyes feel itchy. Soft contact lenses or eyeglasses may be better than rigid contacts.

6. Pink Eye

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an eye condition characterized by inflammation and redness. It’s an infection of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and the white of your eyeball.8

Besides redness, itchiness is the most common symptom of pink eye.

7. Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic condition. It can cause your eyes to become dry.11

Atopic dermatitis is common in young kids, but it can happen to anyone of any age.11

Eczema flare-ups can be uncomfortable, but they aren’t contagious.11

8. Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis

Atopic keratoconjunctivitis refers to a chronic allergic condition of the eyelids. It can also affect the front surface of your eyes, causing them to feel itchy.1

People with atopic dermatitis are at a higher risk of developing atopic keratoconjunctivitis.1

9. Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis refers to a seasonally recurring and severe type of allergic reaction. It causes inflammation of the ocular surface of your eyes. Itchiness can be a symptom.10

If left untreated, this allergic eye disease can also lead to corneal scarring and vision loss.10

10. Certain Medications

Certain medications like some birth controls and depression and anxiety medications can cause symptoms like itchy eyes.4, 5

How to Relieve Itchy Eyes

Itchy eyes aren’t usually a big deal, but they can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are ways to relieve them.

Home Remedies

Here are some home remedies for relieving itchy eyes:6

  • Place cold compresses on your eyes with a damp washcloth or cool gel pads
  • Wash your face with a fragrance-free soap to remove any irritants or debris in your eyes
  • Remove any makeup that may be causing your itchy eyes with a gentle cleanser
  • Use over-the-counter artificial tears to moisturize your eyes
  • Use allergy drops or anti-inflammatory eye drops to relieve redness, swelling, and itchiness
  • Use a contact lens solution to fight dry eyes that can become itchy from contacts
  • Take oral medications for allergies during allergy season
  • Wear eye protection when you’re outside to safeguard your eyes from irritants and allergens

Professional Treatments

There are some professional treatments to help relieve itchy eyes, as well.

  • An eye doctor may prescribe you medicated eye drops to relieve itchy eyes
  • You can talk to your eye doctor about switching from contact lenses to prescription glasses if your contacts are causing discomfort
  • If your itchy eyes are a symptom of a medication, like birth control, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments

If your itchy eyes don’t improve in a few days, or if they’re getting worse, talk to your doctor

Tips for Preventing Itchy Eyes

Here are some steps you can take to prevent itchy eyes:6

  • Avoid touching your face or rubbing your eyes. Irritants on your hands can get into your eyes and make them itchy.
  • Take allergy medications. If you’re someone with seasonal allergies, over-the-counter medication can help.
  • Keep your house clean. Cleanliness helps you stop allergens like dust and mold from irritating your eyes.
  • Wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean helps avoid bacteria and other germs in your eyes.
  • Change your contact lenses. If you wear dailies, make sure to change your contacts daily. 

Summary

Itchy eyes may not be cause for concern, but they can be very uncomfortable. Follow the above tips for relieving and preventing itchy eyes.

Call your doctor if your itchy eyes don’t get any better or if they get worse.

11 Cited Research Articles
  1. Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis.” EyeWiki, 28 Mar. 2021.
  2. Blepharitis.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  3. Dry Eye Syndrome.” Mount Sinai Health System.
  4. He, Bonnie, et al. “Effects of Hormonal Contraceptives on Dry Eye Disease: A Population-Based Study.” Eye (London, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  5. Kitazawa, Momoko, et al. “The Relationship of Dry Eye Disease with Depression and Anxiety: A Naturalistic Observational Study.” Translational Vision Science & Technology, The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 28 Dec. 2018.
  6. Kuo, Irene. “Why Are My Eyes Itchy? Answers from an Expert.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 14 Oct. 2021.
  7. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction.” AAPOS.
  8. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 June 2020.
  9. Crown, William, et al. “Seasonal versus Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: Drug and Medical Resource Use Patterns.” Value in Health : the Journal of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  10. Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis.” EyeWiki, 5 Mar. 2022.
  11. What Is Atopic Dermatitis and How Can I Tell If I Have It?” National Eczema Association, 2 Dec. 2021.
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