Eye irritation can be incredibly frustrating and can be caused by a number of things. How can you tell the difference between seasonal allergies and something more serious? Are itchy eyes ever something that you need to go to the doctor for?
While, per WebMD, most itchy eye issues are caused by allergies and can often be easily treated by avoiding triggers and using over-the-counter medications, eye irritation can also be a sign of a more serious problem like conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pinkeye. Pinkeye tends to be a lot grosser than your run-of-the-mill itchy eye as “pus might make your eyelids stick together while you’re asleep” and there can also be “discharge.”
The condition typically clears up on its own, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that you should head to a doctor if you experience any of the following: “pain in the eye(s); sensitivity to light or blurred vision that does not improve when discharge is wiped from the eye(s); intense redness in the eye(s); symptoms that get worse or don’t improve, including pink eye thought to be caused by bacteria which does not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use; a weakened immune system.”
See a doctor if your eye irritation is prolonged
Eye irritation can also be caused by blepharitis which, per WebMD, “is inflammation of the oil glands in your eyelids” and is “the most common cause of dry eyes.” This condition is often treatable with eye drops, but check with your doctor as other treatment options are available.
As a general rule, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing severe symptoms or if the irritation lasts for more than a couple of weeks (via Self).
And whatever you do, don’t rub your eyes. It’s easier said than done, of course, but rubbing your eyes can actually make things worse. “It’s possible to scratch your cornea with a nail as you’re rubbing, leading to an abrasion,” Weston Tuten, OD, told the Cleveland Clinic. “You can also misdirect your eye lashes and they will continually poke your cornea with each blink.” Instead of rubbing your eyes, Tuten recommends using eye drops to soothe any irritation.
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