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Why Are My Eyes So Itchy?

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An exhausted woman sitting on a couch and her laptop is sitting on the coffee table in front of her. She is taking off her glasses and rubbing her eyes due to itchy and irritated eyes

Nobody likes the feeling of itching, irritated eyes. It’s uncomfortable, a frustrating experience, and leaves you wanting to find relief. While you can get help from your optometrist, there’s often a question people find themselves asking: why are my eyes so itchy?

Itchy eyes are often due to:

  • Allergies
  • Dry eye disease
  • Eye infections
  • Eye strain
  • Contact lenses


Think of allergies like your body overreacting to something. Your immune system goes into a sort of overdrive and tries to do anything it can to get rid of the allergen. Your body wants it gone, whether due to pet dander, pollen, dust mites, or any other irritating substance.

This response often causes your eyes to become irritated and itchy. Your eyes are extremely sensitive, so when the body works so hard to flush out an irritating allergen, the eye is susceptible to this process. It’ll often cause:

  • Visible redness
  • Watery eyes
  • Swelling
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision

Fortunately, most allergies can be treated with antihistamines and other over-the-counter medication. But if your allergies consistently irritate you and get in the way of clear vision, you should visit your optometrist.

A close up image of a woman's visibly red and dry eye

Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease is a common eye condition, and it’s estimated to affect more than 16 million Americans each year. It often feels like an itching, burning, gritty sensation in the eyes—almost like a piece of sand trapped underneath the eyelid.

It’s caused by a problem with your tear production. Instead of protecting and hydrating your eye, the tears are either evaporating too quickly or aren’t being produced in high enough quantities. It leaves the eye exposed and sensitive.

A problem with the meibomian glands, the tiny little glands near the base of the eyelashes, often causes this. These glands produce oils to coat the outside of your tears to stop them from evaporating too quickly, but when there’s an issue with the gland, the tears can’t function.

But that’s not the only cause. Dry eye disease can also be caused by:

  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes
  • A reaction to certain medications
  • Exposure to a dry or dusty environment

Fortunately, dry eye disease can easily be treated through dry eye therapy with your optometrist.

Eye Infections

The eyes are extremely sensitive, and they often feel itchy and irritated when they develop an infection. One of the most common eye infections is conjunctivitis, often referred to as “pink eye” due to the redness it causes.

There are three types of conjunctivitis:

  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis: a bacterial infection affecting the delicate membrane lining the inner surface of the eyelid and the eye’s surface.
  • Viral Conjunctivitis: a viral infection in the area.
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis: symptoms develop due to an allergic reaction.

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can be highly contagious if you aren’t following proper hygiene and often cause that irritating and itchy feeling on the eye’s surface. If you notice light sensitivity, excessive tearing, and any discharge around the eyes, visit your optometrist for treatment.

Eye Strain

In today’s day and age, more and more people are experiencing eye strain. When you spend long hours staring at a screen or engaging in any activity that requires intense focus, your eyes can get tired—often causing those uncomfortable itching feelings. It’s a sign that your eyes could use a break.

To avoid eye strain, it can help to:

  • Optimize your work area. Set your screen around eye level, and make sure you have a supportive, comfortable chair where you don’t need to strain your eyes, neck, or back.
  • Make sure you have proper, comfortable lighting.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes, you spend 20 seconds looking at an object 20 feet away. This helps your eyes refocus and gives them a temporary break.

Contact Lenses

While contact lenses offer convenience and clear vision, they can sometimes lead to eye irritation and itchiness. This is often due to:

  • Wearing the lenses for too long
  • Wearing lenses that don’t fit properly 
  • Poor contact lens hygiene

If you notice any irritation when using your contact lenses, you should consult your optometrist and schedule a contact lens fitting exam. Your eye care professional can spend time properly measuring your eyes and getting you an up-to-date prescription to avoid discomfort in the future.

What to Do if Your Eyes Are Itchy

If you’re constantly dealing with itchy eyes, come see us at Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care in Plainville, Connecticut. Our team can perform a comprehensive eye exam to determine what’s causing the irritating feelings. You deserve relief, so don’t suffer in silence—book an appointment with us today!

Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Written by Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Dr. Donald J. Higgins is the founder and Medical Director of the Dry Eye Treatment Center of Connecticut, a clinic specializing in diagnosing and treating dry eye disease. This clinic features Tear Lab, Oculus with Crystal Dry Eye Report, Equinox LLLT, Lipiflow, and Lumenis OptiLight treatments.

Dr. Higgins decided to become an eye doctor his junior year in high school and has never looked back. In his undergraduate studies, Dr. Higgins received the Trustees Prize in Science, the highest award presented to a science student. He graduated from Boston College in 1978 and began attending the New England College of Optometry. After graduating in 1982, he returned to his hometown of Plainville and has been in private practice ever since.

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