Eyes can become persistently itchy for various reasons, like seasonal allergies, allergic conjunctivitis (eye inflammation), pink eye, dry eyes, or even eye infections. One of the first steps toward improving the symptoms involves identifying the cause or triggers of your itchy eyes. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, this could mean finding ways to avoid allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or mold, for example . This could also entail paying close attention to the types of personal care products that are being used (e.g., lotions, body wash, makeup) as they may also contain ingredients that can irritate the eyes and cause them to become itchy .
An additional strategy that may be useful involves using eye lubricants or sterile saline solution or drops that help soothe itchy eyes and flush out irritants. Furthermore, drops which contain an ingredient known as preservative-free ketotifen have been shown to effectively target conditions that cause the eyes to itch, such as conjunctivitis . A natural cleanser for the eyes and face such as Cliradex® can also remove allergens or other foreign material (e.g., makeup particles, bacteria) that may irritate the eyes.
Cliradex® was formulated to cleanse the face, eyelashes and the eyelids, and its main ingredient is 4-Terpineol, which is extracted from tea tree oil. This particular substance is the most active component in tea tree oil as it possesses more powerful microorganism-fighting effects than tea tree oil itself [3, 4]. More specifically, research shows that 4-Terpineol kills bacteria, improves symptoms associated with various eye conditions (e.g., dry eyes, allergies), and even provides a cooling sensation that is soothing to the eyelids [3-5]. Therefore, using this type of product daily is a beneficial way to reduce the occurrence of itchy eyes.
Itchy eyes are often accompanied by nasal problems, especially for people who are suffering from allergies, and it is important to remember that most of the strategies that improve nasal symptoms can ease eye irritation as well. Several recommendations include [1, 6]:
- Showering both in the morning as well as at night to wash irritants away from the eyes and face
- Being sure to change air conditioning filters regularly as old filters contain excess amounts of foreign particles (e.g., dust, pollen)
- Finding ways to remain indoors on days when pollen counts are especially high
- Identifying allergens that irritate the eyes (e.g., perfumes, cigarette smoke, facial products) and avoid coming in contact with them
- Wearing a mask while cleaning up and vacuuming to remove dust mites and animal dander
- Washing bedding frequently to get rid of microorganisms such as mites; tiny mites called Demodex can live on the eyelids or eyelashes
Eyes may also become itchy due to dry air. Extremely windy days, the daily use of hair dryers, or even sitting in front of a fan can worsen the symptoms for individuals suffering from eye irritation. Wearing sunglasses on days when it is windy prevents dry eyes and using a humidifier while inside helps moisten the air. Cigarette smoke is both a nasal and eye irritant that can dry out the eyes . This means that individuals who don’t smoke should strongly avoid secondhand smoke and that those who use cigarettes should try to smoke less or quit altogether to prevent unnecessary eye discomfort. A combination of the strategies described above can dramatically improve itchy eyes.
- Shah R, Grammer LC. Chapter 1: An overview of allergens. Allergy Asthma Proc. 2012 May-Jun;33 Suppl 1:S2-5.
- Mortemousque B, Bourcier T, Khairallah M, et al. Comparison of preservative-free ketotifen fumarate and preserved olopatadine hydrochloride eye drops in the treatment of moderate to severe seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. J Fr Ophtalmol. 2014 Jan;37(1):1-8.
- Hart PH, Brand C, Carson CF, et al. Terpinen-4-ol, the main component of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) suppresses inflammatory mediator production by activated human monocytes. Inflammation Research. 2000;49(11): 619-626.
- Liu J, Sheha H, Tseng SCG. Pathogenic role of Demodex mites in blepharitis. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012;10: 505-510.
- Gao YY, Di Pascuale MA, Elizondo A, Tseng SC. Clinical treatment of ocular demodecosis by lid scrub with tea tree oil. Cornea. 2007;26(2):136-143.
- Declet-Barreto J, Alcorn S, Natural Resources Defense Control. Sneezing and wheezing: How climate change could increase ragweed allergies, air pollution, and asthma. 2015; New York, NY. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/sneezing-report-2015.pdf
- Gangl K, Reininger R, Bernhard D, Campana R, Pree I, Reisinger J, Kneidinger M, Kundi M, Dolznig H, Thurnher D, Valent P, Chen KW, Vrtala S, Spitzauer S, Valenta R, Niederberger V. Cigarette smoke facilitates allergen penetration across respiratory epithelium. Allergy. 2009; 64(3):398-405.
Scheffer C.G. Tseng, MD, PhD, is Chief Technology Officer of TissueTech, Inc and a practicing Ophthalmologist. He is a world renowned surgeon in ocular surface reconstruction and is well published with over 300 peer reviewed clinical and scientific papers. For over 30 years, Dr. Tseng has been dedicated to making a difference in the lives of his patients. He is the creator of Cliradex & PROKERA.