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Just about everyone experiences itchy eyes at some point in their lives, and usually, the causes are benign. Sometimes though, itchy eyes can be caused a serious issue or cause problems with daily activities including work. Especially if you have persistent or recurring itchiness, having an eye exam is an important first step in treatment.
Most cases of eye itching are caused by airborne irritants like dust, pet dander, pollen or other allergens that cling to the eye surface and cause irritation. Sometimes called allergic eyes, symptoms are often accompanied by other issues like sneezing, wheezing or coughing. Many eye allergies can be seasonal, related to the release of pollen or mold spores into the air. Allergies can also cause a pinkish or reddish hue on the portion of the eye called the conjunctiva, and sometimes allergic eyes are referred to as allergic conjunctivitis.
Sometimes, makeup, facial cleansers, lotions or moisturizers can also make eyes itch, and some people develop allergies to the products they specifically use in their eyes, like contact lens solution or even eye drops for dry eye syndrome.
Other, more serious causes of eye itching include infections of the eye including conjunctivitis or “pink eye” or an infection of the lids or eyelash line. Dry eye syndrome and tear duct dysfunction can also cause eye itching. Often, these more serious issues are accompanied by additional symptoms like burning, blurriness or other vision problems, or a discharge or crusty buildup along the lids.
People who wear contact lenses may develop itchy eyes because of lens irritation, often caused by wearing your lenses for too long or when a speck of dust or other tiny particle becomes trapped beneath the lens. Not replacing lenses as often as directed or not cleaning them properly can also cause itching, which in these cases may be a sign of a developing infection.
Depending on the underlying cause of your symptoms, itchy eyes can be treated in different ways. When itchy symptoms are caused by allergens, eye drops or allergy medications (or both) usually help provide relief by addressing the underlying allergic reaction. Avoiding the allergens when possible can also help. People with chronic dry eye syndrome may benefit from special artificial tears developed specifically to moisturize the eye surface, or from minimally invasive procedures to unblock clogged tear ducts. Cool compresses may also help relieve symptoms temporarily while other medications take effect. Although it's tempting to rub eyes that itch, try not to touch your eyes at all. Rubbing itchy eyes can increase irritation and even damage the eye surface, plus touching the eye area can introduce harmful germs that can cause infection. Because itchy eyes can occur for so many different reasons including some serious issues like infection, it's important to have an eye exam to determine the cause so the most effective and most appropriate treatment can be administered.
Silicon Valley Eye Physicians offers a comprehensive array of treatment options for the care and treatment of itchy eyes in patients throughout the Sunnyvale and Santa Clara region. Call 408-739-6200 to schedule an appointment or visit our Sunnyvale or Santa Clara offices or for a convenient visit online!