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Burning Eyes


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are burning eyes?

Burning eyes describes a feeling of burning and irritation of the eyes. Burning eyes can be accompanied by itching, tearing, or discharge from the eyes.

Burning eyes have many possible causes. One of the most common is exposure to environmental pollutants such as tobacco smoke, smog, or dust. Chemicals found in household cleaning solvents, such as bleach, soap and shampoo, can lead to burning eyes. Chlorine in swimming pools can also make your eyes burn. Extremes of cold or hot dry air may also result in burning eyes. Wearing your contact lenses for prolonged periods can make your eyes burn.

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Allergies can cause inflammation leading to burning eyes. Your eyes may respond to airborne allergens, such as pollens or animal dander, or to localized allergens, such as makeup and moisturizers. Conjunctivitis, which describes inflammation of the membranes that line your eyelids and cover the whites of your eyes, may be caused by either allergies or infection with bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. Upper respiratory infections, such as influenza (flu) or the common cold, may be accompanied by burning eyes.

The treatment for burning eyes varies depending on the cause. In many cases, the burning goes away by itself when you get away from the irritating factor, such as smoke. In other cases, use of over-the-counter artificial tears or antihistamines can relieve burning eyes. If you have conjunctivitis caused by bacteria, your health care provider may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Because your eyes are so important to the quality of your life, it’s always a good idea to contact your health care provider for any bothersome eye symptoms.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have burning eyes together with bleeding from the eyes or eye discharge resembling pus, or if you have a sudden change in vision, severe eye pain, or sensitivity to light.

Seek prompt medical care if your symptoms of burning eyes are persistent, recurrent, or cause you concern.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 10, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Eye burning - itching and discharge. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Eye Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

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