What Causes Itching Eyes?

Norma Jean Howland

Itching eyes are typically caused by allergies or the common cold. In the case of allergies, a reaction like this may be triggered by exposure to a specific allergen. Allergies may be seasonal or year-round, and irritants often include ragweed, pollen, mold or dust. An itchy eye irritation may also be a reaction to chemical exposure of some kind, such as smoke, air pollution and some cleaning compounds. Of course, itchy eyes may also indicate an eye infection, such as conjunctivitis, or what is commonly referred to as “pink eye,” which should be evaluated by an eye doctor in order to maintain good eye health.

Air pollution can cause itching eyes.
Air pollution can cause itching eyes.

For allergy sufferers, itching eyes are caused by exposure to some type of allergen. An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system tries to fight off a foreign substance, such as pollen or dust, by producing histamines. These histamines are intended to protect the body from the intruder, but in the case of allergies, they are produced in copious amounts that lead to symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing or a runny nose.

Allergies often cause itchy eyes.
Allergies often cause itchy eyes.

Some of the more common allergens that may be the cause of itching eyes include animal dander, mold, grass, leaves or even face makeup. Allergies may also develop over time; something that has been used for a while may suddenly produce itching, burning and redness. Eyes may start to itch following exposure to certain kinds of plants, fabric or even soap.

Itchy eyes can be caused by cigarette smoke.
Itchy eyes can be caused by cigarette smoke.

Itchy reactions also can occur due to sensitivity to a product or to an environmental influence. For example, contact lens wearers sometimes develop sensitivity to certain solutions, which may cause itchy eyes or excessive tearing. Likewise, people exposed to air pollution and cigarette smoke often experience itchiness of the eyes, which usually clears up by leaving the affected area.

Many of the causes of itchy eyes also cause sneezing and sinus irritation.
Many of the causes of itchy eyes also cause sneezing and sinus irritation.

Having eyes that are constantly itching may indicate a medical condition that should be checked out by a doctor, especially in the case of red, itching eyes. This type of eye irritation may be caused by an infection called conjunctivitis. This is usually highly contagious and should be addressed by a physician or an eye doctor as soon as possible.

Dry, itchy eyes can be a sign of conjunctivitis.
Dry, itchy eyes can be a sign of conjunctivitis.

Irritated, itching eyes may also accompany the common cold, which can include watery eyes and symptoms similar to an allergy attack. Usually the eye irritation will improve as the virus or bacteria runs its course. Once the sneezing and tearing of the eyes has abated, the eyes usually will stop itching and return to normal.

Watery eyes often accompany itchy eyes.
Watery eyes often accompany itchy eyes.

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