In this article, we look at the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of burning eyes.
Stinging or irritation of the eyes is often referred to as burning eyes. Common causes of burning eyes include:
Blepharitis is characterized by flaky, dandruff-like skin at the base of the eyelids. It is caused by a bacterial infection. Additional symptoms include eye redness and swelling.
Dry eyes can result when the tear ducts do not produce enough tears or the right kind of tears. Dry eyes tend to occur more often in women and older people. Additional symptoms can include:
- eye redness
- heavy-feeling eyelids
- blurred vision
Also known as allergic conjunctivitis, eye allergies occur when irritating substances get into the eye. The body responds to these substances by producing histamines, which can cause burning eyes.
Common triggers of eye allergies include dust, pollen, smoke, perfumes, pet dander, and foods.
Other symptoms of eye allergies include:
- tearing swelling
- itching of the eyes
Overexposure to the ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun’s rays can cause eye sunburn, which is also known as photokeratitis.
In addition to burning eyes, symptoms include:
- light sensitivity
- a gritty feeling
- halos around lights
The treatments for burning eyes will often depend upon the underlying cause. For example, if burning eyes are due to a bacterial infection, a doctor may recommend antibiotic eye drops to treat the infection.
Treatments often aim at reducing eye dryness.
Other interventions a doctor may recommend for burning eyes include:
- Cleaning the eyelid margins near the base of the eyelashes, using a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water. A person can gently pat the eye dry following cleansing.
- Applying lubricating eye drops to reduce redness and improve eye comfort. For very dry eyes, a doctor may prescribe lubricating eye drops or artificial tears.
- Applying a warm compress to the eyes. Make a compress by soaking a clean, soft towel in warm water and then placing it over the eyes.
- Using antihistamine eye drops or tablets to reduce the effects of allergic reactions in the eyes. These products are available online.
- Taking supplements such as fish oil and flaxseed. These can help to reduce the effects of dry eyes. They are especially useful for people with ocular rosacea.
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help to keep the eyes moist and reduce dryness.
- Taking regular breaks from using a computer screen can help reduce eye dryness and irritation.
- Wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV light and further irritation.
In rare instances of very dry eyes, a doctor may recommend surgery. Examples of surgery include inserting plugs into the tear ducts to prevent tears draining away from the eyes.
While burning eyes can be painful, they are often highly treatable through correcting any underlying causes and reducing eye dryness.
If a person has symptoms such as vision loss, they should see their doctor immediately.
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