When To Worry About Your Itchy Eyes

It's normal for your eyes to sometimes feel itchy due to different reasons, such as certain eye makeup, pet dander, seasonal pollen, or household dust. However, if the itchiness remains for longer periods, you might want to take a closer look at what exactly bothers your eyes.

According to Harvard Health, 20 to 40% of Ameri­cans are affected by allergies annually. Airborne allergens that cause allergic rhinitis, the inflammation of the nasal passages, can also cause the lining of the eyes to become inflamed, known as allergic conjunctivitis. An estimated 95% of people who have this type of conjunctivitis also have rhinitis.

However, allergic conjunctivitis can also be triggered by chemical smells, such a laundry detergent, household cleaning products, and perfume (via Healthline). Once the allergens trigger allergic conjunctivitis, the eyes become itchy, red, swollen, and teary. In some cases, mucous discharge may occur. Usually, allergic conjunctivitis is seasonal and decreases with age but some individuals develop chronic allergic conjunctivitis, especially if they're allergic to pet dander, according to Healthline. Usually, lubricant eye drops specifically designed for allergies can help reduce the symptoms, as well as an over-the-counter antihistamine.

When itchy eyes are cause for concern

Allergic conjunctivitis, in general, is harmless. However, contact conjunctivitis, which can be triggered by eye make-up, and giant papillary conjunctivitis, which is caused by an object in the eye, could have complications if untreated (via Patient). The problem is that our first reaction to any type of itch is to scratch it, that goes for our eyes as well. When our eyes get itchy, we rub them, thinking the itch is being released, whereas in reality this could make the condition worse and could lead to an infection, such as "pink eye." 

"Eye infections can come from many causes — virus, bacteria, parasite or fungus — and the symptoms vary with the cause, but in general, infections have a longer list of symptoms when compared to allergies," Dr. Richard Gans, an ophthalmologist, told the Cleveland Clinic. "The bottom line is that if anything more than tear-like fluids come from your eye or you feel eye pain, it's likely more than allergies."

Although allergies are uncomfortable, with the right treatment they are manageable, the same goes for eye infections. However, you want to make sure you get the right treatment, that's why your ophthalmologist needs to diagnose the root of your itchy eyes, so an eye infection won't be left untreated, risking your eyes being permanently damaged, as well as transmitting it to others.