Itchy Eyes

In our continuing series on Eye Health, Fatimah Hospital’s Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S. S. GILL talks to us about ITCHY EYES.

ITCHY EYES can be so annoying! The challenge of not giving the itchy eye a good rub is enormous. If the itch overcomes you and you end up rubbing the eye, be prepared for the consequences of the rubbing which may range anything from persistently teary eyes, eye discomfort, bloodshot eye, infection and blurring vision. Scratching the eye just makes things worse by increasing inflammation, so do try your best to avoid it.

Most itchy eyes are caused by exposure to allergens, however, there are also other causes that may result in itchy eyes.

Some of them are:

  1. DUST AND ANIMAL FUR: This is very common and is often associated with allergies to the nose and skin too. The condition may be long standing and recurrent, occurring throughout the year.
  2. POLLEN: This is usually seasonal and often occurs during a particular time of the year. The condition is sometimes referred to as seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.
  3. MEDICATIONS, EYE DROPS AND CHEMICALS: This occurs when the eyes are exposed to any of these. This sometimes poses a problem as a person may be allergic to the preservatives used in an eye-drop bottle. Most eye drops will contain a preservative including eye drops used to treat allergies.
  4. CONTACT LENS RELATED ALLERGIES. This is called Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC) and is usually due to longstanding contact lens wear. This mainly occurs in non-disposable contact lenses.


Symptoms of eye allergies include the following:

  • Itchiness and/or burning sensation.
  • Redness of the eyes.
  • Swollen puffy eyelids (often both eyes)
  • Lacrimation or excessive tearing.
  • Photophobia or sensitivity to bright lights.
  • Sometimes itchy, red, scaly eyelids.

These symptoms may or may not occur alongside nasal allergy symptoms of sneezing and runny nose.

Skin allergies (atopic dermatitis), asthma, nasal allergies and sinusitis (hay fever) may all cause itchy eyes too. Watch out for these symptoms and highlight them to your doctor.

Firstly, avoid rubbing the eyes to aggravate its consequences! Rubbing the eyes stimulates the tissues of the eyes to release more chemicals like histamine from the mast cells which only makes it worse. If you have identified an allergen (substance that triggers the allergy), then removing the offending agent is essential. A cool (not cold!) pack over the eye often soothes the itchy eyes as temporary measure. If your symptoms are prolonged, then always seek professional medical help.

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