Help and frequently asked questions

What does it mean if I have a burning sensation in my eyes?

Answer: 

When your eyes are in the best health, your vision is clear and unaffected and you can carry out your daily tasks and activities with no frustrating symptoms. However, eyes can also exhibit a variety of physical symptoms. These can arise for many different reasons. Sometimes it is a simple allergy at the root of the problem or a need to change your working habits, while other times it may be a sign of more serious problems. If you're worried about any aspect of your eye health, it's important to see your optometrist to rule out any conditions and get a thorough examination.

A common symptom that many people experience is a burning, sore and/or stinging sensation in the eyes. Again, this could be caused by any number of conditions or factors. Your optometrist can give you a proper consultation, but here is some general information to keep in mind. Burning and sore sensation in the eyesIf you feel as if your eyes are burning, sore and irritated, there are several reasons why this may be occurring.

These symptoms may also be accompanied by discharge, stinging, redness, wateriness and other irritations. Exposure to pollutants in your immediate environment can be one of the main culprits behind these physical sensations. This can bring on a watering and itchiness around the sensitive eye area. These pollutants may include tobacco smoke, smog or dust, many of which may be a common presence in the air around you. As well as this, the chemicals in cleaning and other harsh products can also cause the eyes to feel as if they are burning. If you wear contact lenses, it's crucial to take care of them and wear them for the recommended periods. Over-wearing the lenses may be one reason why your eyes are feeling sore and irritated.

Allergies are another major cause of irritated eyes.

Allergens such as pollen or pet dander can cause your eyes to become watery and red when you come into contact with them. Your eyes may also be reacting this way due to dryness or vision strain. Dry eye occurs when you aren't producing enough tears to lubricate the hydrate the eye, or your tears are deficient in one of the three layers of oil, water or mucus. Vision strain can occur as a result of focusing on computer screens, TV screens and similar objects for an extended period of time. This can affect your ability to blink frequently, which reduces the amount of moisture available to your eyes. Reading on these screens can also require a lot of detailed close up vision work, which can strain your eyesight and lead to irritations. Burning eyes and a sensation of pins and needlesIf you experience burning eyes with an added sensation of pins and needles, it's best to see a qualified optometrist as soon as possible. There could be many different reasons why this is happening, but you will need a professional examination to get the right information.

Burning sensation and difficulty focusing on near objects

These symptoms may point to a case of dry eye, but again it's better to see your optometrist for a concrete diagnosis. Dry eye can be treated relatively easily with lubricating eye drops that can be purchased over the counter at a pharmacy. Burning sensation, grittiness and squiggly shadowsSeeing spots, flecks or shadows in front of your eyes is a relatively normal occurrence. These floaters are usually caused by small flecks of protein which can accumulate in the vitreous humour, the back part of the eye filled with a gel-like substance.The other sensations may be indicative of dry eye, allergies and other causes as described above. See your optometrist for more information.

Rinsing your eyes directly with water will cause them to become red and irritated, as the water can interfere with the natural tears protecting your cornea (the clear front surface of the eye). You should always wash around the eye only, with your eyelid closed.

Constant burning

If you have constantly experienced burning eyes and irritation for many years, it's best to see your optometrist. Infections can also cause the stinging and sore symptoms, so it's advisable to make an appointment sooner rather than later.It can be frustrating dealing with the condition with no effective treatment, so make sure to speak to your optometrist if you have any issues after the examination. Sometimes the preservatives in eye drops can actually cause an allergic reaction, so you may need to switch to a different brand or formulation to get relief from your symptoms.Waking up with a burning sensationIf you wake up with a sudden burning sensation in one eye or both eyes, this may indicate an infection has occurred overnight.

As always, see your optometrist or GP for an examination.

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