Itchy eyes: definition, causes, complications and treatments

Itchy eyes: definition, causes, complications and treatments

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Why can you have itchy eyes? How to fix it and when to worry? We take stock with ophthalmologist-surgeon Barbara Ameline-Chalumeau.

We’ve all had itchy eyes. But what causes this feeling and should we be concerned? It all depends on the cause according to Doctor Barbara Ameline-Chalumeau, ophthalmologist surgeon and Vice-President of the French Society of Ophthalmology (SFO). Fortunately, most of the time, it is an inconvenience without consequences for health.

Itchy eyes: definition

We talk about tingling, but it can also be itching, which can be accompanied by redness and/or tears. Moreover, having itchy eyes is frequently a sign of dry eyes, which can paradoxically be accompanied by tearing.

In short, tingling can trigger tear flow, but contrary to what people think, when you have tears, it is sometimes a sign of dry eyes. These are then poor quality tears, the eye overcompensates, producing tears that are too liquid and not effective since they evaporate immediately.

Symptoms of itchy eyes

Several symptoms can accompany the sensation of itchy eyes:

  • Tingling, itching;
  • Tearing;
  • Dry eye syndrome;
  • Eye redness;
  • Inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Itchy eyes: possible causes

Dry eye

Dry eyes occur quite often due to being “exposed”. Typical example: when working on a computer, we stare at screens and blink more rarely of the eyes (reduction of almost a third of blinks) and less completely. As a result, the upper and lower eyelids do not touch each other and, as a result, the product produced by the tear glands does not come out.


Conjunctivitis is a inflammation of the conjunctiva. As for symptoms, some speak of tingling, others of burning or itching. It is accompanied by redness, can cause watery eyes and slightly stuck eyelids in the morning. This inflammation may be of origin viral or allergic (hay fever, for example). During allergic conjunctivitis, the tingling is a reaction to the allergy (to pollen, for example). Among other possible causes: presence of a foreign body in the eye (eyelashes, dust, shampoo) which causes irritation. Likewise, after bathing in water that is a little too salty or chlorinated.

Light from the sun or from certain screens can also be harmful. The tingling can also appear at night, because we are more sensitive, we produce fewer tear glands and the discomfort can be greater than during the day. Finally, the wearing contact lenses also constitutes a factor of friction and irritation. If they are not well adapted in terms of shape (diameter) and camber, the lenses risk being a source of suffering to the conjunctiva and cornea.

Prevention and treatments

If you have the feeling of having dry and itchy eyes from consuming screens, the advice of the Vice-President of the French Society of Ophthalmology is, first of all, to relearn how to blink correctly : “I explain to my patients that we must blink 10 times in the morning and evening with all our strength to reaccustom our eyes to blinking correctly, to re-muscle the eyelids and to allow the small glands in our eyelids to produce the product and to function properly.

Are allergies causing this tingling? A medical treatment based onantihistamines should relieve the allergy (and in particular pollen allergies) and the inflammation it generates.

In the event of conjunctivitis of viral origin (the most common), medical treatment will be administered by the doctor or ophthalmologist. The pitfall in case of conjunctivitis: rubbing your eyes. “Friction can be quite harmful and can even distort the eye”warns our expert. “Vigilance specifically in children, because they have a much more tender, flexible eye than ours and if they scratch, they will be much more sensitive.”

Furthermore, if a foreign body (shampoo or facial cream) has come into contact with our eyes, the ophthalmologist advises putting a few drops of physiological serum (pods made of salt water) or artificial tears (type of eye drops closer to real tears) to rinse the eye, clean it and remove toxic products. Enough to relieve our peepers more quickly. Note that even in the case of viral conjunctivitis, a few eye drops will help to dilute the viruses.

Are your eyes red from your contact lenses? The specialist suggests taking stock with your ophthalmologist on how we maintain them and how we handle them in order to prevent this from turning into a real infection. She also reminds contact lens wearers to go without them one day a week and to favor the use of their pair of glasses instead to rest their eyes. Same, if you have red eyes at the end of the day, it’s better to take them off and put on your glasses. Indeed, “lenses are a factor of less oxygenation of the eye”she emphasizes.

Sunglasses play a preventive role in health, because UV rays are quite toxic to the surface of the eye. So, “protect yourself from sunlight (especially in the mountains or by boat), from certain somewhat toxic lights and even from the wind, by wearing sunglassescan prevent itchy or irritated eyes.reports Barbara Ameline-Chalumeau.

Itchy eyes: when to consult?

If itchy eyes are accompanied by blurred visionDr. Ameline-Chalumeau warns: we must be careful that it is not one of the symptoms of other diseases such as the beginning of keratitis (a complication of conjunctivitis). “Blurred vision is necessarily damage to the corneaor even more, so this time a play on the transparency of the eye, then it is important to consult your doctor, or even your ophthalmologist directlyshe warns.

The ophthalmologist will then carry out an examination (or even take a conjunctivitis sample to identify a possible infection) and may prescribe medications (antibiotics, antiseptics) to treat the conjunctivitis.

We also consult if we frequently have red eyes. But, if this symptom is not accompanied by a decline in vision, the ophthalmologist suggestsuse of eye fluid (physiological serum or artificial tears), available in pharmacies, without a prescription, to relieve this unpleasant sensation.