ITCHY EYES ? HERE’S WHY ..
Updated: Aug 24
Ocular itching is a common symptom seen in all age groups .
Three most common causes for eye itching are:
1. Eye allergy - The eye is a delicate organ covered by thin mucous membrane exposed to environmental dust and pollution which can trigger allergy . Eye makeup or any other facial creams or hair colors also can cause irritation and inflammation leading to an allergic response . People prone to allergies of the respiratory system like allergic rhinitis ( colds ) or asthma , tend to have similar response in eyes too . Vernal conjunctivitis or spring catarrh is a specific kind of eye allergy seen in young children more so in boys and more during summers . It’s inherent to their immune system and gets better as they grow up.
2. Eye dryness - Just like how dry skin tends to be itchy , similarly dry eyes can lead to pricking sensation and also itch. Such dryness is very common in elderly people , diabetics , people with hypothyroidism or arthritis. In younger age groups who spend excessive time using mobiles or laptops / computers itching is mostly due to dry eyes.
3. Eye or eye lid infection - A bacterial or viral infection leads to an inflammatory response and can present as redness, watering ,pain ,secretions and also itching.
DOS and DONTS when eyes itch:
1. Cold compresses with clean cotton / cloth dipped in ice cold water for a minute or two in a day to give immediate relief.
2. Splash Clean cold water into eyes - but avoid over doing this as it can alter the PH of the ocular surface.
3. Use general tear drops which are available over the counter.
4. Take an anti allergy tablet available at the pharmacist if itching is unbearable
5. Reach your ophthalmologist at the earliest to arrive at the right diagnosis and medicines for you. In many cases even a virtual consultation would be enough to get adequate information.
1. Do not rub eyes - Eye rubbing can release more chemicals and set a vicious cycle of allergic response leading to worsening of the symptoms .While one rubs eyes, he / she can introduce dirt and bacteria which may cause an infection. Chronic eye rubbing, can lead to refractive errors (eye glass powers ) or keratoconus ( an eye disease where there is loosening of corneal tissue ).
2. Don’t self medicate - other than general tear substitutes do not use just any drops . These may have steroids which can cause serious side effects if used injudiciously . Neither should you use drops prescribed for others.
3. Don’t use eye make up or contact lenses when eyes are itchy or red.
4. Do not use kitchen products - oil, milk, rose water, cucumber etc as they can introduce infections.
Preventive measures for ocular itching:
1. Wearing protective eye wear when outdoors , anti glare glasses for computer work.
2. Avoid changing hair or face creams and stick to brands which suit you. Avoid excessive eye makeup and use hypoallergenic eye make up products . Cleanse the make up before retiring to bed and not leave it overnight.
3. Avoid dryness - Drink adequate water and be well hydrated , get sound sleep for 6-8 hours and reduce screen time.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle- regular exercise , balanced diet , well controlled blood sugars.
5. Periodically visit your eye doctor, and do not wait until the time you are forced to make an emergency visit due to aggravation of any condition.
Author: Dr. Jayashree K Bhat (MBBS, DNB - Ophthalmology
Founder & Senior Ophthalmologist)