What are the Most Common Causes of Eye Irritation?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Images By: Delphimages, Stacy Barnett, Subbotina Anna, Jj Hall, n/a
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2018
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Eye irritation can be caused by various infections and injuries, often with symptoms ranging from swelling and redness, to discharge and itchiness. One of the most common problems is conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. Some people also suffer from infections on the eyelids, such as blepharitis, sties, or chalazia. Of course, there are injuries to the eye that can cause irritation, such as chemical burns, and corneal ulcerations and abrasions.

Conjunctivitis can be caused by an allergy, virus, chemical, or bacteria, with most forms causing eye redness, inflammation, itchiness, and discharge. Viral conjunctivitis is the most common kind, which usually affects both eyes, and is accompanied by clear discharge, eyelid swelling, photosensitivity, and symptoms of a cold. Bacterial conjunctivitis is the next most common type of pink eye, and is usually characterized by yellow or green eye discharge, redness, eyes that are stuck together in the morning, and general eye irritation. There is no immediate treatment for the viral form of this condition, but the bacterial kind usually responds to antibiotics within a day.


Other infections can also cause eye irritation, with blepharitis being one of the most common causes. This condition results in inflammation of the eyelids, usually due to oil glands that become clogged. Improving eye hygiene is usually the most recommended treatment, as cleaning the eyelids often with specially made scrubs or baby shampoo and water can reduce the inflammation. Another common type of infection is a stye, which is a red, swollen bump on the eyelid that is caused by bacteria in an oil gland. This usually goes away on its own within a few days, but it can also become larger if the gland becomes completely clogged, at which point it is called a chalazion and may need medical treatment.

Injuries to the eye can also result in eye irritation, and chemical burns are one of the most common issues. This usually occurs when household cleaning agents get in the eyes, causing extreme irritation for days. Another type of eye injury is a corneal abrasion, in which the cornea is scratched, which can often occur from debris getting into the eye, being poked in the eye, or even removing contact lenses too roughly. This often heals with time and rest, and the symptoms usually include photosensitivity, eye irritation, and redness. A corneal ulcer is another common issue that may result from either an injury or infection, with symptoms that range from eye redness and pain to excessive tearing and discharge.



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