There are many possible reasons for why someone experiences burning eyes. These causes can range from something simple- like allergies- to something complex.
This symptom might also be accompanied by eye discharge, pain, itching, and watery eyes.
If you live in an area with a lot of pollen, or if you’re chronically exposed to a specific allergen (like pet hair), then this can be a cause of your symptom.
Before undergoing the right treatment, you need to understand the root cause of your problem.
What Causes Burning Eyes?
Depending on the situation, it may be relatively easy to pin point the problem. For example, if you’ve recently spilled chemicals in your eyes, then the burning can linger for quite some time after.
A not-so-obvious cause is swimming pools. Swimming pools are typically filled with chlorine, which can cause the eyes to sting.
Certain sunscreens and shampoos can also lead to burning eyes. Finally, be wary about any soap, skin moisturizers, or makeup that you’re putting on your skin as these can irritate the eyes.
Other Potential Causes
If the burning is chronic, or is getting progressively worse, then see a doctor. Some other potential causes include:
- Wearing contact lenses for extended periods of time
- Exposure to irritants like mold, dust, or smoke
- Cold/dry air
- Starting at the computer screen for too long
- Ocular rosacea
Essentially, anything that triggers inflammation within the eye is also going to lead to burning. Bacterial infections like conjunctivitis often lead to burning eyes, as can infections caused by viruses.
Even the flu can cause this symptom. In rare cases, it might be due to something called orbital cellulitis. Orbital cellulitis is considered a very dangerous type of infection that can, in some cases, be lethal.
Be sure to tell your doctor about all the symptoms you’re experiencing. This will help them make a better diagnosis as to what’s causing it.
Treatment Options for Burning Eyes
Fortunately, most cases of burning eyes will go away on their own. If they don’t, then there are some treatment options you can try from home.
First, try rinsing out your eyes using lukewarm water. If there are chemicals in your eye, washing them out should alleviate your symptoms.
A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to get sunscreen in their eyes while at the beach for example. If you suffer from allergies, then locate the culprit allergen and try to remove it from your home.
If that’s not possible, then minimize your exposure to that specific allergen.
Lubricate with Eye Drops
An effective way to prevent burning eyes is to keep your eyes moist. Eye drops are the best way to do this. When shopping for eye drops, make sure that you pick a brand that doesn’t contain preservatives.
After all, you don’t want to make your condition worse! Lubricate your eyes several times per day until your symptoms subside.
If the eye drops don’t seem to be helping, or if they’re making things worse, stop using them and schedule a visit with your doctor. Most of the time, though, eye drops will help lessen burning and itching of the eyes.
When Should You Call a Doctor?
Here’s when you should consider calling a doctor:
- When the burning is accompanied by light sensitivity
- When you’re starting to experience blurry vision
- When you’re starting to see flashes of light
- When you develop double vision
Any other unexplained symptoms like pain or confusion should be a cause for concern as well. If you experience burning eyes for longer than three days, then call a doctor.
Sunscreen – A Common Culprit
We touched on this earlier, but let’s cover it once more. Sunscreen is by far the most underrated culprit when it comes to burning eyes.
Most people don’t realize just how easy it is for sunscreen to get into the eyes and cause pain and discomfort. If you get it in your eyes, then flush it out with water.
Never clean your eye out with dirty water as this can lead to an infection. Once you’ve thoroughly rinsed out your eye, apply eye drops (remember, preservative free) about once every 30 minutes or so.
Do this until the pain/itchiness subsides.
What is Ocular Rosacea?
As we mentioned earlier, a potential cause for burning eyes is a condition called ocular rosacea. This is an inflammatory condition that can affect the eyes and whose cause is unknown.
Researchers believe it’s a mix of genetic and environmental. It’s more likely to appear women, but men are more likely to experience severe episodes of the condition.
Itching, burning, eye redness, and itchiness are common symptoms. People with this condition may have eyes that always look like they’re bloodshot.
Treating Ocular Rosacea
The good news is that there are a few effective ways to treat ocular rosacea. Your doctor may give you an antibiotic for a pre-specified amount of time to see if that helps.
Tetracyclines typically work well for people with this condition. A common tetracycline is doxycycline, which will be taken 1-2 times a day for a certain amount of time.
On a side note, make sure that you’re avoiding “trigger foods” that can make your burning eyes worse. These include alcohol, spicy foods, and any other foods that cause inflammation.
Punctal Plugs – A Solution For Dry Eyes
The tear drainage ducts are designed for- you guessed it- draining fluids from the eye. If for whatever reason your eyes are drying out too quickly, your doctor may opt to put punctal plugs in your eyes.
What are they?
They’re basically small plugs that cover the tear drainage ducts. Thus, your eyes won’t dry out as quickly. Before careful though, as punctal plugs might make your eyes too watery.
Typically, these are a last resort for when nothing else seems to be working. For burning eyes that are being caused by premature drying out of the eyes, punctal plugs can be an effective solution.