Itchy Eyes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment in Denver
Itchy eyes are often a symptom of a bigger problem—allergies—and they are a nuisance that affects millions of people. But the experienced doctors at Advanced ENT & Allergy Center can help determine the cause of your itchy eyes and develop a personalized treatment plan so that you can find lasting relief from frustrating allergy symptoms.
What Causes Itchy Eyes?
The medical term for itchy eyes is ocular pruritus (proo-RIE-tus) and, aside from itchiness, can also be accompanied by redness, dryness, burning, sensitivity to light, or swollen eyelids. Some of the most common causes of eye itchiness include:
- Chronic dry eye
- Contact lenses
- A foreign irritant, such as sand or an eyelash
- Hay fever
- Eye infection
Allergies and Itchy Eyes
Eye allergies, also called allergic conjunctivitis, occur when the eyes react to an environmental irritant or allergen. Allergies, in general, are a hyperactive response by our immune system to common particles floating around in the air. People without allergies have immune systems that simply ignore these potential allergens, but for those of us with allergies—our bodies go into overdrive!
When an allergen (like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander) comes in contact with the eyes of an allergic person, the immune system identifies the intruder as harmful (even though it isn’t) and the eyes release potent chemicals to try to fight it off. One of these chemicals is called histamine, the neurotransmitter that triggers most allergy symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, itchy skin, coughing, and breathing issues. Histamine in the eyes leads to redness, itchiness, light sensitivity, and watering—all of which can make life miserable.
Some allergens that can cause itchy eyes are:
- Pet dander
- Mold and other indoor allergens
- Chemicals such as cleaners or detergents
If your itchy eyes are caused by allergies, other symptoms may also occur:
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Other Causes of Itchy Eyes
Irritants—like smoke, chlorine, sand, or dirt—can also cause itchy eyes. If this is the case, symptoms will be temporary and subside once your eyes are no longer in contact with the irritant. Whether it’s an eyelash, sunscreen, pet hair, or perfume, the body’s response to the toxin can include swelling, watering, and itching, all natural responses to flush out the unwanted debris or chemicals.
Contact lenses that do not fit correctly or bother your eyes can also cause irritation and swelling, even sometimes creating bumps on the inside of your eyelids. This can make your eyes sensitive, dry, watery, and red, even after removing your contact lenses. If you wear contacts, you may want to visit your eye doctor to determine if the type of lenses you wear are causing these issues.
How to Treat Dry, Itchy Eyes
Do NOT Rub Your Eyes
It is important to avoid rubbing or itching your eyes as much as possible when you experience discomfort. Forcefully rubbing your eyes can be extremely damaging to this sensitive part of your body—especially if the cause of your itchiness is a foreign object in your eye. Rubbing can scratch your cornea, which leads to more serious issues.
Apply a Cold Compress
Closing your eyes and placing a clean, cold, damp washcloth over your eyes can immediately alleviate the symptoms of itchy eyes. This reduces inflammation and itchiness in and around the eyes. While a cold compress won’t address your symptoms long-term, it can be soothing to the eyes and repeated as many times as needed.
Treat Your Allergies
If you suspect that allergies are causing your itchy eyes, we recommend meeting with an experienced ENT specialist to get to the root of the issue and find the best solution for your allergy symptoms. It’s difficult to truly treat allergies without identifying specific allergens. At Advanced ENT & Allergy, we start by testing for allergies to determine your exact triggers. With this information, we can offer several individualized treatment options that may include:
One of the best ways to prevent itchy eyes from allergies is to reduce exposure as much as possible. You can make simple changes in your home, like shutting windows during high-pollen seasons, using fragrance-free detergents and body products, vacuuming and dusting more frequently, or cutting and cleaning a pet’s hair on a regular basis. Changing the filters in your filtration system may also help prevent irritants like smoke and pollen from entering and lingering in your home.
If your itchy eyes are caused by allergies, antihistamine medications can block the effects of histamine and help relieve symptoms like itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion. These medications come in many forms—pills, liquids, and nasal sprays—and can be found over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription. However, they can cause drowsiness and other side effects and have to be taken repeatedly as symptoms occur.
Antihistamine Eye Drops
Antihistamine eye drops specifically block histamine in the eyes and help alleviate itchiness. These drops aren’t absorbed systemically so they won’t cause you to become tired or wired, but they also only treat the symptoms short-term. This means you may need to continue using eye drops as long as you experience itchy eyes, and some of these drops can dry out and damage your eyes and tear ducts over time.
Allergy Drops Can Cure Allergies & Treat Symptoms
At Advanced ENT & Allergy Center, we offer sublingual allergy immunotherapy, or allergy drops, as a long-term treatment for allergy symptoms. With customized drops under your tongue (that patients can take daily at home), thousands of our patients have found lasting relief from itchy eyes and other allergy symptoms.
Find Relief From Itchy Eyes At Last
Get help from the expert doctors at Advanced ENT & Allergy Center to find lasting relief from itchy eyes. Our specialists have helped Colorado residents get rid of their dry, red, itchy eye symptoms for decades. Make an appointment today to stop itchy irritation and start seeing with happy, healthy eyes.