Itchy Eyelids (Blepharitis)
Rubbing your eyes after you’ve prepared a meal with spicy herbs or worked outside in the garden are common means of developing itchy eyelids. There are so many reasons for the skin covering over your eyeballs to itch that it can be difficult to narrow down the cause. Some of the more common causes of itchy eyelids include
- Blepharitis, that can result from some kind of eye infection with a number of different variables
- Tiredness from lack of sleep
- A stye, another infection-related condition
- Chalazion, related to an inflamed or blocked oil gland in your eye
- Dry eye
- A simple cold or flu virus
When you have periodic itchy eyes that don’t last longer than it takes you to get some sleep or apply eye drops to clear them up, then you really don’t have much to worry about. The best treatment is to take precautions and wash your hands before touching your face as well as avoiding those materials that cause your eyes to itch.
Reduce the immediate discomfort with cool compresses pressed against your eyelids and over-the-counter antihistamines to reduce slight allergic reactions. Stop rubbing your eyes when they itch because you could end up with a scratched cornea.
When Symptoms Persist
When symptoms don’t respond to simple measures, you should seek medical attention from your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. In addition to the itching that won’t seem to go away, other symptoms that can signal a more serious condition include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Discharge from your eyes
- Increased tearing
- Formation of a bump or lump under or on your eyelids
- Burning in your eyes
- Sinus congestion
Seasonal allergies also can leave you with dark circles under your eyes, sometimes called “allergic shiners.” The itching with both seasonal and perennial allergies can be so severe that you rub your eyes too hard — which can scratch your eyes or spread infections to your eyes.
When you see your eye doctor, explain how long the itching has lasted, when it started and what you were doing when it first started. Eyelid itching that’s constant, persistent or recurrent can signal more serious complications. Seek immediate treatment by calling 911 if your itchy eyes also are accompanied by:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen face, tongue and lips
- Sudden changes in your vision
- Eye pain
Making the Diagnosis
In addition to the eye exam and timing of your symptoms, your ophthalmologist also needs to know:
- What other symptoms you’re experiencing
- If you have diagnosed allergies
- To what are you allergic
- What you’re taking for your allergies
- What other medications you’re taking
- Whether you’ve ever had this happen before
- If you’ve ever been diagnosed with another eye problem such as blepharitis
Allergies very often play a dominant role in the development of itchy eyelids. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about 50 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies that lead to itchy eyes due to an allergic reaction to pollen. And the incidence of seasonal allergies seems to be on the rise, affecting as many as 40 percent of American children and 30 percent of the adults in the country.
Allergies to bee stings and other bug bites don’t affect your eyes as much as airborne allergens do. In addition to pollen, other common airborne allergens that cause itchy eyes include pet dander, dust and mold. Other common irritants that could be causing your symptoms may include:
- Strong perfumes
- Exhaust fumes
- Air pollution
- Cigarette smoke
Eye allergies occur when your body’s immune system becomes compromised. Your eyes may react adversely when they come in contact with materials that don’t affect other people at all. When those allergens come into contact with the mast cells in your eyes, they release a substance called histamine. Histamine then causes the itchiness, redness and watering.
If your ophthalmologist suspects your itchy eyes are due to an allergy, you may be referred to an allergy specialist. Because the symptoms of allergies closely resemble other eye conditions, it’s vital that you seek outside help to get a definitive diagnosis. An allergist may conduct certain tests that may include scraping your eye for tissue samples to be examined under a microscope.
Treatment for Itchy Eyes
If you’ve been diagnosed with an infection due to an eye disease such as blepharitis, you need to take a round of antibiotics to clear up the itching and associated symptoms. Even when you take medications to treat your eye condition, you still must maintain effective hygiene practices to stop the itching. These include:
- Washing your hands before touching your eyes
- Using artificial tears and sterile eye drops
- Completely removing eye makeup at night
- Switching to hypo-allergenic makeup for sensitive skin
- Gently washing your eyelashes with baby shampoo and rinsing with a clean cloth
Your eye doctor may recommend additional eye treatments if you have allergies that include:
- Avoiding the allergens as much as possible
- Staying indoors with the windows closed
- Wearing wrap-around sunglasses
- Removing your contacts during allergy seasons
- Switching to daily-use contacts that you dispose of every day
- Trying over-the-counter allergy-relief eye drops
- Using the prescription eye drops you can get from your eye doctor
- Taking antihistamines, perhaps coupled with a decongestant
- Taking anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- Undergoing immunotherapy, also referred to as allergy shots
- Relying on mast cell stabilizers
Consequences of Itchy Eyes
Most cases of itchy eyelids respond well to simple at-home remedies when you catch it early enough and closely follow your eye doctor’s instructions. Rarely do any of the underlying conditions related to itchy eyes lead to more serious complications. But it can.
Continued heavy rubbing of your eyes can cause scratches on your eyeball that could then cause scars or build-up of skin that becomes very uncomfortable without mild surgical intervention. Your eyelid itching also could be signaling a dangerous infection that, if left untreated, could lead to vision loss and even permanent blindness. The infection also could spread and cause other physical complications throughout your body.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult eye doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified eye doctor can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Itchy Eyelids (Blepharitis) treatment in NYC? Would like to schedule an appointment with Ophthalmologist in Manhattan, Optometrist Dr. Saba Khodadadian of Manhattan Eye Specialists, please contact our office for consultation with NYC eye doctor.
Dr. Saba Khodadadian, Optometrist (NYC Eye Doctor)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4821