Help and frequently asked questions

What are the causes of and treatments for itchy eyes?


Experiencing an itchy eye is a fairly common complaint among many people, but there are a variety of different reasons why you could be dealing with those annoying symptoms. If you are concerned about your itchy eye it is advised to see an optometrist, but it may help to know about the causes and treatments of this condition. 

What causes an itchy eye?

One of the most common reasons for an itchy eye is allergies, or what is known as allergic conjunctivitis. This is when the conjunctiva (the thin membrane covering the whites of the eyes and the inner eyelids) overreacts to a substance it comes into contact with. There are two types of allergic conjunctivitis most people deal with, seasonal and perennial. The seasonal variety usually affects people in the spring or autumn seasons and is triggered by the presence of allergens in the air, such as grass and pollen. On the other hand, perennial allergic conjunctivitis happens all year round and is attributed to exposure to allergens in the household, such as mould, dust, pet hair or pet dander. These are the two most common reasons for itchy eyes but they can also be caused by other conditions, such as an infection, dry eyes or blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids). While these don't usually cause any damage to your vision, if the symptoms persist it's important to see your optometrist. In some cases, itchy eyes can also be a symptom of a more serious underlying eye issue so it's best to seek professional advice if you are concerned.

Treatments for itchy eyesItchy eyes can also be accompanied by redness and wateriness. While they are annoying to deal with, there are a variety of ways to alleviate the symptoms. Many of these are preventative -  for example, you can take steps to remove allergens in your home by vacuuming and dusting regularly. You can also close your windows to reduce the likelihood of pollen and other allergens coming in from outside, and you can find out about the pollen level before you decide to head outdoors. If you are already suffering from itchy eyes, you can take an oral antihistamine or eye drops with antihistamines to relieve the symptoms. This can also be a preventative measure if you know you will be dealing with these allergens due to the weather. Many of these can be bought over the counter, but you may wish to speak to your doctor for more advice first. Try to resist the urge to rub your eyes and use a cold compress to bring some relief instead. You can also get a prescription for eye drops if the symptoms persist.

If you only have one itchy eye and notice a white discharge being produced, this may be a sign that you have dry eye, an eye infection or an allergy. The white substance may just be mucus that your eye produces naturally when irritated, but it's best to see your optometrist for more advice. Red and itchy eyes are fairly common, but if you get an irritated, red patch of itchy skin underneath the eye as well this may be a sign of allergic contact dermatitis. This is when the skin exhibits an allergic reaction to something it has come into contact with, such as a cream or lotion. It will usually go away on its own provided you don't use the same substance again. Similarly, an eyelid rash may also be caused by contact dermatitis due to the application of cosmetic or hair care products. See your doctor for treatment if you notice this - you may be prescribed a cream or ointment to apply on the affected area. If you have recently undergone eye surgery such as a corneal transplant, you may be left with stitches in the cornea (the clear surface covering the front of the eye). These can cause a raised area to appear on the eyelid, as well as some inflammation or swelling until the eye is fully healed.