Nothing is as irritating as an itch you can’t scratch. Itchy eyes can often lead people to do some pretty risky things to find relief. However, too much rubbing, flushing, poking, and prodding can make a bad problem worse.
So what causes itchy eyes, and what you can do to stop the itching? Here’s what you need to know about itchy eyes.
Finding the Mote in the Eye
Why do your eyes even itch in the first place? The most common causes of eye itching are:
Allergies are by far the most frequent reason for itchy eyes. Usually, these allergies are seasonal. Pollen, hay, flowers, cut grass, and pollution can all increase itching.
Sometimes, eye itching can be caused by products you wear. Your eyes can be sensitive to some types of makeup, especially mascara and eye liner. Perfumes with high alcohol content and even some heavily fragrant hair styling products can make your eyes itchy.
You’re familiar with the feeling of having an eyelash in your eye. Sometimes itching is caused by a similarly small foreign object like part of a leaf, a grain of sand, or even dirt and sweat from working outside.
Not all itching is because of allergies or eyelashes. Itching can be a symptom of another more serious eye problem, like dry eye syndrome, meibomian gland dysfunction, or blepharitis.
- Contact lenses. Some people are more sensitive to contact lenses. Improperly cleaned, poorly fitted, or overused contacts can all contribute to increased itching.
If itching persists, care for itching eyes properly and discover the underlying cause.
Rubbing the Wrong Way
It’s your first impulse to rub your eyes when they are itchy. It gives you the relief you’re looking for. But, after the rubbing stops, the itch returns fiercer than ever. So, you keep rubbing. In some cases, you might even pull on your eyelids or touch the white of your eye itself to make the itching stop. None of these tactics are effective, and they can be dangerous for the following reasons:
Rubbing increases dark circles under your eyes.
When you rub, you actually damage the delicate blood vessels in and around your eyes. Dark circles become more pronounced as literal bruises form below your eyes from constant rubbing.
Touching or rubbing your eye increases the chances of infection.
Your hands carry thousands of germs. Unless you take special care to wash your hands before you ever rub them—most people don’t—you risk developing conjunctivitis or another infection as a result of touching your eyes with harmful germs.
Foreign objects can scratch the cornea, which is both painful and damaging.
If you rub your eye when you have a grain of sand or dust in your eye, you grind the object into the cornea. Scratches to the cornea are very uncomfortable, and your discomfort will increase as you keep rubbing.
Rubbing increases eye pressure.
For those who already have pressure-related eye diseases, like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, increased pressure from rubbing can actually accelerate the progression of the disease or burst blood vessels in the eye, causing scarring and reduced vision over time.
Rubbing is linked to the development of keratoconus.
Keratoconus is a condition where the cornea changes shape from gently round to conical. Vision becomes distorted, and your eyes become more sensitive to light.
If you have one-time itch from something in your eye, get a friend or family member to flush your eye with saline or artificial tears. If the itchiness persists, see a doctor for more vigorous flushing and for the removal of foreign objects.
Going Easy on the Eyes
If you have itching from allergies or experience itching for an unknown cause, see an ophthalmologist for diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions. The best way to manage chronic itching is to receive treatment for the underlying cause.
For example, when you have meibomian gland dysfunction, your meibomian glands don’t secrete enough lubricating oil and tears for your eyes. Treatments include gland probing to help break up blockages in the gland and special eye drops to replace lost lubrication. Other procedures, like LipiFlow, heat the gland to help the flow of oil and tears, clearing the gland.
Other simple solutions for temporary eye itching due to allergies and irritation from makeup include:
Removing your makeup thoroughly each day.
Wearing eye makeup for extended periods of time can contribute to itching, especially after sleeping.
Changing your contact lenses as needed.
Choose glasses if your eyes need a rest from wearing contact lenses.
Using a warm washcloth to soothe irritated eyes.
Lay on your back and place a clean, damp washcloth over your eyes. It will help your eyes relax.
Washing your hand before applying makeup or contact lenses.
Some eye itching can be prevented by basic hygiene.
For more information about diagnosing and treating itchy eyes, contact the team at Country Hills Eye Center. And remember: don’t rub!