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Common Causes For Itchy Eyes and How To Treat Them

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Eye irritation is not a major cause for concern. However, it’s a very uncomfortable and common complaint that affects people of all ages. Scratchy eyes can disrupt your daily life, whether it’s a fleeting itch or a persistent discomfort. The reasons behind itchy eyes vary widely—some are trivial, while others could signal something more concerning.

Causes of Eye Itchiness

1. Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies, or hay fever, make eyes intensely itchy due to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds, triggering an immune response known as allergic conjunctivitis. This varies with tree pollen in spring, grass in summer, and ragweed in fall, each bringing its own allergens.

Treatment: To manage these symptoms, monitor pollen counts, stay indoors when counts are high, and maintain cleanliness through regular showers and washing clothes. Additionally, antihistamines and allergy medications, like an immunologic modification, can offer relief.

2. Perennial Allergies

Unlike their seasonal counterparts, perennial allergies occur year-round, often triggered by indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold, leading to continuous symptoms of itchy, red, and watery eyes.

Treatment: Allergy tests can identify specific irritants, and treatments usually involve antihistamine eye drops, cold compresses to ease discomfort, avoiding eye rubbing, dust-proofing living spaces, and possibly prescription treatments or immunotherapy with your doctor’s guidance.

3. Airborne Irritants

Dust, smoke, and pollutants can irritate your eyes, causing itching.

Treatment: Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses outdoors and using air filters indoors.

4. Infections

Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis): Bacterial or viral conjunctivitis leads to redness, itching, and discharge. It’s highly contagious, especially among children. Issues related to cornea problems can also contribute to similar symptoms, requiring a comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist.

Coronavirus/COVID-19: Although rare, eye itchiness can be associated with COVID-19, according to updated 2022 medical research.

Treatment: Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect an infection or cornea problems.

5. Dry Eye

Dry eyes occur when your tears fail to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. This deficiency can cause various symptoms, such as itchiness, as the lack of moisture leads to irritation and discomfort.

Treatment: Take breaks during prolonged screen use and use a humidifier in dry areas to treat dry eyes. Over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, otherwise known as artificial tears, can soothe symptoms by adding needed moisture. If symptoms persist, an ophthalmologist can offer further dry eye therapy options, such as punctal plugs or IPL.

IPL (Intense Pulse Light) treatment for dry eyes utilizes pulses of light to address its root causes, notably by reducing inflammation and stimulating the meibomian glands to improve tear quality and flow. This therapy enhances tear stability and diminishes symptoms by unclogging glands and sealing off problematic blood vessels. Conducted in outpatient sessions, its minimal invasiveness and simple care requirements make it a popular choice for relief from dry eye symptoms. 

6. Eyestrain

Eye strain, also known as asthenopia, occurs when your eyes become tired, sore, or achy after focusing on a task for an extended period. This strain can lead to various symptoms, including itchy eyes.

Treatment: To alleviate eyestrain, adopt the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, glance at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also, maintain appropriate lighting to minimize strain and itchiness.

7. Contact Lenses

Contact lenses can lead to itchy eyes due to improper hygiene, dryness, exposure to irritants, using expired products, or a specific condition known as giant papillary conjunctivitis. Ensuring clean, well-hydrated lenses, using them within their usage period, and occasionally opting for the right glasses or new contact lens fitting with an optometrist can mitigate these issues.

Treatment: Maintaining lens cleanliness and moisturizing the eyes are key for comfort and health. Using fresh solutions, cleaning cases, and not using expired products prevent irritation. For ongoing problems or signs of conjunctivitis, see an ophthalmologist.

8. Blepharitis

Blepharitis causes itchy eyes primarily due to the inflammation and irritation of the eyelid margins, which can disrupt the natural lubrication and cleanliness of the eye surface.

Treatment: Keep your eyelids clean and apply warm compresses regularly to help reduce swelling and discomfort.

When to See an Ophthalmologist

While many cases of itchy eyes don’t require a rush to the eye care doctor, there are times when getting professional help is important. If your eye irritation is severe, comes on suddenly, or doesn’t go away after a couple of days, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Also, you should seek immediate care if you notice any of the following symptoms, as they may indicate an infection or other medical emergency:

  • Green or yellow eye discharge or “goop”
  • Light sensitivity
  • Severe eye pain
  • Sudden vision loss or blurred vision
  • A sensation that something is in the eye
  • Fever
  • Redness in the eyelids or eyes

It’s very important to get immediate medical attention for eye injuries. Whether you’ve been poked in the eye, had a run-in with harsh chemicals, or suffered a cut or puncture, see a healthcare professional in your area. Floridians from any of these locations can book an appointment with Center For Sight today.

The advice in this blog is for general informational purposes only and may not be suited for your exact insurance plan and eye care needs. Therefore, consulting a qualified healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment is essential.

About Center For Sight
Center For Sight provides ophthalmology, optometry, dermatology and cosmetic surgery services to patients in Southwest Florida. The practice offers patients convenient access to nationally renowned surgeons, highly-trained, compassionate staff members and cutting-edge technology. Center For Sight’s mission is to “bring clear vision to life” through trusting relationships and the unending pursuit of excellence in eye care. For additional information and locations, visit

About Center For Sight Foundation
The Center For Sight Foundation is a donor-advised fund maintained and operated by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, a section 501(c)(3) organization. The fund is composed of contributions made by individual donors. David W. Shoemaker, M.D., established the Center For Sight Foundation to support the annual Mission Cataract program, which restores vision at no cost for people living at the poverty level suffering vision loss due to cataracts. For more information, visit

Written by useye

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