How to Relieve Itchy Eyes

From pollen-laden breezes to much-dreaded eye infections, several factors can make our eyes irritable and itchy. Anyone who has experienced this discomfort knows it isn’t reserved for any particular season. While allergies can flare up in the spring or summer, the harsh winds of winter can also result in eye irritation.

The key to relieving those frustratingly red, itchy eyes lies in pinpointing precisely what triggers them. This guide will examine the typical culprits behind the gritty nuisance and discuss how to relieve itchy eyes.


Photo by Flávio Santos

What are Itchy Eyes?

Itchy eyes, or ocular pruritus, can cause relentless itching and create discomfort throughout your day. This condition often tempts you with an irresistible urge to rub your eyes — a natural reaction that, unfortunately, only makes matters worse.

While it might feel like a natural instinct, rubbing your eyes not only intensifies the irritation but can also introduce additional allergens like pollen and pet dander to the already sensitive areas. Constant rubbing can also damage the corneal epithelium, the eye’s outer layer, leading to pain and increasing the risk of infection.

What are the Symptoms of Itchy Eyes?

While the name is pretty self-explanatory, here are the key signs to watch for:

  • Itching: The most obvious sign is when the eyes feel irritated and scratchy.
  • Redness: The eyes may appear redder than usual, indicating inflammation or irritation.
  • Swelling: Swollen eyes or eyelids can occur, often as a response to rubbing or allergens.
  • Sensation of a foreign body: It may feel like something is in your eye, even when nothing is there.
  • Watery discharge: Excessive tearing is common as the eyes attempt to flush out irritants or allergens.
  • Burning or stinging: This symptom can accompany itching, adding to the discomfort.
  • Dryness: A gritty feeling, as if sand is in the eye.
  • Tickling sensation: It may feel like a rogue eyelash or a speck of dust is trapped in your eye, relentlessly aggravating it.
  • Light sensitivity: Increased discomfort in bright environments or when looking at screens.
  • Blurred vision: Temporary loss of clarity, especially after episodes of intense itching or rubbing.

What Causes Itchy Eyes?

Understanding the root causes is the first step toward finding itchy eye relief. Several triggers, from environmental factors to medical conditions, can provoke this irritating symptom. Let’s explore the most common offenders behind those itchy, watery eyes:


The most likely culprit behind itchy eyes? Allergies. Whether it’s pollen during spring or pet dander in your living room, allergens cause your immune system to release histamine, which in turn leads to swelling and irritation in your eyes.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a condition that occurs when your eyes either don’t produce enough tears or produce poor-quality tears. Aging, certain medications, or health conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome or blepharitis can all cause dry eyes.


Infections like conjunctivitis–or pinkeye–are also prime suspects. This inflammation of the inner lining of the eye can make your eyes red, swollen, and sometimes sticky with pus, especially after sleeping. Both bacteria and viruses can cause this contagious condition, but good hygiene can help prevent its spread.

A Reaction to Medicine

Some medications can unexpectedly lead to itchy eyes. Reactions to medicine, particularly those like antihistamines or certain eye drops, can exacerbate dryness and irritation.

Environmental Factors

Your daily environment can be a battleground for your eyes. Dust, smoke, and wind are just a few aggressors that can dry out and irritate your eyes. Even soaps and cosmetics applied near the eyes can trigger environmental reactions, leading to symptoms of contact dermatitis.

Eczema and Rosacea

Itchy eyes might be a frequent complaint for those with eczema or rosacea due to related inflammation around the eyes, known as atopic keratoconjunctivitis or ocular rosacea.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Do you spend hours in front of a computer? You might be experiencing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). This modern ailment results from prolonged screen time, leading to dryness, strain, and blurred vision. To combat CVS, take regular screen breaks, use hydrating drops, or consider blue-light glasses to reduce eye strain.

Contact Dermatitis

Have you ever tried a new product and suddenly found yourself with itchy, irritated eyes? That could be contact dermatitis. This reaction is caused by direct damage from irritants like soap, detergent, makeup, and even the chlorine in your swimming goggles. Switching brands or reducing exposure might help, as will washing your hands before touching your eyes to avoid transferring irritants.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

How to Soothe Itchy Eyes

Battling itchy eyes can turn any day into an uncomfortable ordeal. Luckily, itchy eyes treatment isn’t hard to find. From over-the-counter solutions to simple home remedies, here’s what to do for itchy eyes:

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

  • Saline eye drops: Perfect for flushing out particles, these drops can wash away the responsible irritant.
  • Antihistamine eye drops: Targeting the root cause of allergy-related itchiness, these drops block histamine to reduce symptoms.
  • Decongestant eye drops: These reduce redness and swelling by constricting blood vessels in the eyes.
  • Antihistamine tablets or capsules: Taken orally, these can provide relief from systemic allergic reactions affecting the eyes.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Cool compresses: A cool, damp cloth on your eyes can reduce inflammation and itchiness.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Consuming foods rich in omega-3s or supplements can help support tear production.
  • Humidifiers: Adding moisture to your environment can prevent eyes from becoming dry and itchy.
  • Avoid rubbing: Touching or rubbing your eyes can worsen irritation and potentially damage eye tissue.

When Should I See a Doctor?

While many cases of itchy eyes are mild and can be managed with simple remedies, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional if you experience:

  • Persistent symptoms: If discomfort continues despite home treatment.
  • Severe pain or vision changes: These symptoms can indicate a more serious condition.
  • Discharge or pus: Possible signs of an infection.
  • Sensitivity to light or increased redness: These may warrant professional evaluation.


Photo by Leah Newhouse

Upgrade Your Eyewear

The right eyewear can improve comfort, particularly if you suffer from red, itchy eyes. Whether it’s reducing digital eye strain with blue light glasses or shielding your eyes from harmful UV rays and allergens with custom sunglasses, it’s important to protect your eyes from the environment. Wearing the proper eyewear allows you to enjoy clear vision and comfort throughout your day.

Avatar of Ivan Yong

Ivan Yong

Dr. Ivan Yong is an optometrist with over 12 years of experience in the optical industry. He earned his doctorate from the Southern California College of Optometry and has practiced in multiple settings, including private practice, community health, and ophthalmology. Dr. Yong aims to expand access to affordable eyewear and improve eye health worldwide.