Itchy eyes can be the result of a variety of issues, both chronic and short-term, infectious and noninfectious. Also called ocular pruritus, it may seem like a minor irritation until additional symptoms set in. There are a variety of treatments for itchy eyes, depending on the underlying cause. Here’s a look at some common treatments for itchy eyes.
People with allergies, like hay fever, develop itchy eyes because an allergen (such as dust, pollen, pet dander, etc) gets into the eye. This incites a production of histamine, inducing redness and irritation. In many instances, taking a general allergy medication will help block the production of histamine, thus eliminating itchy eyes. These can be procured both by prescription and over the counter. Additionally, antihistamine eye drops are available. These may be more helpful for specifically managing itchy eyes, particularly if your general allergy medication does not help your eyes. Cromolyn sodium is available by prescription as an eye drop form and also blocks the production of histamine.
Eyes that are too dry can also become itchy. Dry eye can occur because of chronic illnesses that inhibit moisture production (such as Sjogren’s syndrome), issues with the eyes preventing sufficient tear production, external conditions that dry the eyes out too quickly, or an imbalance in the oil, water, and mucus that make up the layer of tear that protects the eye. Of course the obvious solution is to return moisture to the eye, but there are multiple ways to go about this. Dry eyes resulting from Sjogren’s syndrome, for example, may be helped by medications that encourage mucus production; immune system suppressants that help the disease overall, rather than a specific symptom, may also relieve dry eye.
For dry eye that occurs as its own issue, not as a part of chronic illness, artificial tears may be sufficient if it occurs periodically. For more chronic dry eye, medications or eye drops may be needed to reduce inflammation of the cornea or eyelids as well as stimulate tear production. When artificial tears are insufficient, a daily insert of hydroxypropyl cellulose can dissolve into a lubricant for your eyes. If none of these options work, your doctor may suggest making tears out of your own blood! Other options for dry eye include:
- Punctal occlusion, a surgical procedure to blocking the tear ducts, thus diminish moisture loss
- Scleral lenses, a special form of contacts that hold in moisture
- Remove blockages from any oil gland
- Light therapy combined with eye massage techniques
Itchy eyes are sometimes caused by viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections. Keratitis and conjunctivitis (pink eye) are both common issues that develop in this way -- although it is important to note that some forms of both of these develop in noninfectious ways (for example, as a result of a wound) as well.
Viral infections must generally be allowed to run their course, taking careful measures to avoid spreading the infection in the meantime. Antivirals eyedrops or pills are sometimes helpful. Both antibiotics eye drops and antibiotics ointments are available for bacterial infections, although these infections often clear up on their own as well. Likewise, antifungal drops for fungal infections. Some parasites are quite resistant to medication, and must also be allowed to heal in their own time, although antibiotics drops may be useful in fighting some strains.
If you develop itchy eyes or other eye issues as a result of a scratch, your doctor may recommend medication to help prevent infection, ease discomfort, and minimize discoloration, as well as suggesting the use of an eye patch until the wound has healed.