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Itchy Eyes – Could They Mean Something?

Itchy Eyes lasting a few days, or with itching quickly disappearing after using eye drops, means that you do not need to be concerned.

Should itching in the eyes persist however, then it’s time to visit your therapeutic optometrist, who will check out if it’s a sign of something that needs prescription treatment.

The first thing to remember is that the majority of eye problems are easily controlled with eye drops, antibiotics and in a lot of cases just by a change of living habits and monitoring of environment – so relax if you’ve got itchy eyes!

What causes itchy eyes?

A variety of things from environment to mild infections to dry eyes can cause significant itching.  Rubbing to alleviate the itching invariably worsens the situation possibly leading to watery eyes, red eye, swelling or puffiness.

Environment is undoubtedly a main contributing factor. A night out in a stuffy atmosphere, especially with friends who smoke, is likely to leave you with itchy eyes at both the venue and the next morning.

On a hot and windy day with dust being blown everywhere, sand or grit will get into the eyes and that feeling of itching will start. A few blinks of the eyelids or a gentle rub will alleviate the mild itching symptoms, but of course too much rubbing will just make things worse and watery eyes will start, which can then be a problem in itself.

A foreign body such as an eyelash (presumably your own – but you never know) or a fine piece of fibreglass from say some insulating material can produce really severe itching, and that’s good since it’s your body’s way of ensuring the foreign body is removed.

Itchy eyes could be an indicator of the start of a conjunctivitis, which could be either allergy,bacterial, viral and even dry eye related.

Allergic conjunctivitis is the first thing that needs to come to mind though with itchy eyes, as it is the primary symptom for this condition.

Treating Itchy Eyes

A mild case of itchy eyes will probably go away in a few days, but if not then some over the counter (OTC) “artificial tear” eye drops from your local pharmacy might do the trick. Don’t take the drops more than four times a day however, and if the itchy eyes persist, then make an appointment with your optometrist as soon as practical.

Before you make your appointment you might like to get a friend to have a bit of a look into your eyes to see if there is any foreign matter there, pulling the lower lid down while you look up and vice versa to give your friend an open view. If there is something there then a quick splash of sterile saline might get it out.

Usually it’s better to leave the whole thing to a professional, especially if you have contact lenses, and absolutely especially so if you’ve ever had laser eye surgery – just don’t take any chances, remembering your eyes are the only ones you’ve got.

Your optometrist will be able to provide a programme to treat the itchy eyes, but more importantly will be able to check out for other things such as foreign bodies, beginnings of conjunctivitis or signs of eye deterioration.

Be warned however, your optometrist may recommend that you curb your nights out clubbing with your friends!

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

Comments (4)

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  1. minnie says:

    My husband blows insulation. Ever since his last job 3 days ago his eyes feel like they are full of sand ,dry ,painful and sensitive to light and air. He refuses to go to dr. Eye drops are not working. What can I do for him?

    • admin says:

      A bit late with the reply as I have been overseas.
      How is his eye now. This must be seen by a therapeutically qualified optometrist. Where are you located?

  2. Jonathan says:

    Given the age of this post, I post this reply for other visitors, more than those posing the question. I had itchy eyes for 9 months. It was horrendous. I tried strong antihistamines – no joy what so ever. General eye drops brought limited relief. Then I had an eye test and bought some glasses. With in a week I improved greatly. With in two weeks the itching stopped. They have just started itching in one eye again…. I have had an eye test and need some slightly stronger glasses. It’s all becoming rather predictable.

    • Jim (http://www NULL.optometrist says:

      You are correct Jonathan, not wearing the correct glasses can in fact cause itchy eyes from eye strain.
      As an aside wearing glasses in an air conditioned environment can keep the eyes slightly humidified so suppress dry eyes somewhat.

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