Why Are My Eyes Itchy?

April 13, 2017

There are many causes for itchy eyes; most commonly, they are the result of seasonal allergies. However, itchy eyes could be the result of other causes. Read below to learn about the common causes of itchy eyes and how to treat them.


The most common cause of itchy eyes is an allergic reaction. Seasonal allergies cause what’s known as allergic conjunctivitis. There are two types of allergic conjunctivitis:

  • Acute allergic conjunctivitis— This is a short-term condition that is more common during allergy season. Eyelids suddenly swell, itch, and burn. You may also have a watery nose.
  • Chronic allergic conjunctivitis— A less common condition called chronic allergic conjunctivitis can occur year-round. It is a milder response to allergens like food, dust, and animal dander. Common symptoms come and go and include burning and itching of the eyes and light sensitivity.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies affect 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children and can often run in families. Those with a history of allergies are at a greater risk to develop allergic conjunctivitis. Allergies can often be treated through home care, eye drops, and antihistamines. Read our post on allergies for more ways to relieve irritated eyes.

Pink Eye

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and eye surface. Infectious pink eye is commonly caused by viruses that cause the common cold and can be very contagious.  Antibiotics are ineffective against these viruses.  Bacterial pink eye is less common and easily treated with antibiotic drops. Preventing the spread of pink eye, especially those that are viral, is important and requires good hygiene. Poor handwashing is a major contributor of the spread of pink eye, especially in groups of children.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Sources estimate that nearly five million Americans age 50 and older have clinically significant dry eye syndrome. However, dry eye syndrome can appear at any age. Dry eye syndrome is caused by a chronic lack of lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Many medications, including those that treat allergies, high blood pressure and depression, can also aggravate dry eye syndrome.

Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Aching sensations
  • Heavy eyes
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Dryness sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Blurred vision

In many cases, once the condition has been diagnosed by a doctor, the use of artificial tears and lubricating ointments can treat the symptoms of chronic dry eye. More serious symptoms may require prescription eye drops in addition to artificial tears.  It’s important to see an ophthalmologist to help determine the causative factors so that proper treatment can be provided.

When to Consult a Doctor

If you have already been diagnosed with allergies, it is safe to say they may be the cause of your itchy eyes. If you have never had allergies before but have noticed that you develop symptoms around certain smells or foods—or at certain times of year—you should seek medical attention. If you suspect allergies, an allergist can test you to determine the cause of the itching and prescribe treatment. If you do not suspect allergies as your cause, consult your eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment. For any ocular irritation or discomfort it is important to consult an ophthalmologist in order to determine its cause and provide appropriate treatment.

If you are suffering from itchy eyes, schedule an appointment today!

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