According to the National Eye Institute, millions of people develop an eye irritation every year. Although it is a fairly common condition and does not really harm one’s eyesight, its symptoms can be troublesome and irritating. Other than redness, sensitivity to light, tearing, and dry eyes, here are the other indications that you might be suffering from eye irritation and what you can do to treat it.
1. Your eye is red or pink.
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. When small blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, they become more visible, causing the whites of your eyes to appear reddish or pink. Pink eye is commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection, but it can also be triggered by allergies, exposure to irritants, dry eye disorder, or an incompletely opened tear duct (inborn).
“A lot of people think that pink eye should be treated immediately with medicated eye drops,” says Dr. Casey Andres, a family physician in a local health center. “Majority of pink eye is caused by viruses and resolve spontaneously like the common cold. However, because pink eye can be contagious, early diagnosis can help limit its spread,” she adds.
2. Your tears start to overflow.
Tear oversecretion is usually caused by irritation or inflammation of the surface of the eye. This can occur for a number of reasons, including eyelash and eyelid problems or allergies. Oddly, a dry eye problem can sometimes cause watery eyes, because the eye produces excess tears to combat the irritation and dryness. Treatment for watering eyes is not always necessary; it depends on the severity and nature of the problem.
3. Your eyes are more irritated than usual during the rainy season.
Itchy eyes — also known as ocular pruritis— affect many people and are a common reason for visiting the ophthalmologist. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, including allergies.
“Allergic conjunctivitis does not typically present with discharge as infectious conjunctivitis does, but more so with irritation, itching, and redness,” Dr. Casey claims. Symptoms of itchy eyes can sometimes be alleviated with over-the-counter artificial tears or allergy eye drops. In many cases, however, prescription eye drops or oral medications may be needed to provide relief.
4. You feel an alternating sting and burn.
Burning eyes can be caused by allergy, dryness, tiredness, eye fatigue (like computer work) or a combination of the above. Usually, eye burning or stinging can be relieved with over-the-counter lubricating eye drops and rest. Applying cool, moist compresses over your closed eyes can also help.
5. Your eyes are really dry.
Dry eye occurs when the quantity and/or quality of tears fails to keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike, or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.
“As a result of the dryness, the eye can get inflamed, irritated, becomes red, and blurs the vision,” says Dr. Casey. For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, it is enough to regularly use over-the-counter eye drops (artificial tears). Yet, if symptoms become persistent and more serious, consult your doctor.