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4 Common Causes of Itchy Eyes (and How to Treat Them)

Do you suffer from irritated and itchy eyes? Here are four possible causes, and cures to help you find relief.

4 Common Causes of Itchy Eyes

An itch that’s difficult to scratch quickly escalates from a mild distraction to a major vexation, so it’s little wonder that itchy eyes are a frequent complaint at ophthalmologists’ offices . Here are four likely causes—and solutions—for your bothersome peepers.

1. Allergies

A major likely cause of itchy eyes: an allergic reaction . If your eyes are bothering you, consider whether you’ve recently used any new products (creams, makeup, soap) that could have irritated them. Eyes also commonly react to pollen, dust mites and pet dander. Avoid suspected triggers, if possible, and use saline eye drops to flush out any leftover particles. You can also take antihistamines , in pill or drop form, to ease allergic symptoms . Don’t wear contact lenses until the warning signs go away.

2. Contact lenses

Your visual aids can actually lead to itchy eyes, especially if they’re damaged, not replaced often enough, improperly cleaned or a poor fit. (An imperfect fit may be the culprit if you feel like you have a foreign object in your eye or if you experience vision fluctuations when wearing contacts.) Follow the replacement schedule given to you, and make sure you wash and disinfect your contact lenses according to the instructions that were provided with their cleaning solution.

3. Dry-eye syndrome

Another possible reason for itchy eyes is dry-eye syndrome , which can be caused by insufficient eye-moisture production (due to aging, laser-eye surgery or medications such as decongestants and antidepressants) or eye moisture that evaporates too quickly (caused by smoke, dry air or blinking less often). Over-the-counter saline drops, also known as artificial tears, will replace the missing lubrication and can often relieve the discomfort.

4. Eye infections

If you have additional symptoms, such as eye discharge or a sore throat , if you’re in a lot of pain or if your vision declines, you may have an infection or another problem requiring professional care. “There are many complaints that may present with red, itchy and watery eyes,” says Holly Shaw, a nurse advisor for Allergy UK . “As some of the rarer eye conditions have the potential to be sight threatening, it’s good to seek advice.”