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What Burning Eyes Could Mean and When You Should See the Doctor

About 1.3 billion people around the world suffer from a form of vision impairment.

These cases are caused by different diseases and physical conditions. Taking care of your eyes is, therefore, an important part of keeping them healthy and maintaining good vision as you get older.

That’s why once you notice any unusual aspects with your eyes, you need to have them checked straight away. One of the most common eye issues is burning eyes. You’ve most probably suffered this condition at least once in your lifetime.

Don’t let your burning eyes continue to bother you. Learn what you can do to feel normal again.

What are Burning Eyes?

Burning eyes refers to having irritated eyes which may or may not turn red and have tears. You’ll experience a burning sensation accompanied with other symptoms such as watery eyes, pain in the eyes, eye discharge and itching.

Your eyes may burn due to many different reasons including the weather, allergies, and even diseases. Other causes may be genetic such as the dry eye syndrome (DES) which is a condition in which the eyes don’t produce enough lubricating fluids.

Whatever the cause of your eye problems, you need to have them checked and get the right eye treatment option as soon as possible.

Causes of Burning Eyes

The good news is that most of the causes of burning eyes are mild and won’t affect your eyes much. However, if the burning sensation doesn’t go away, it could be a serious problem worth the doctor’s attention.

Some of the most common causes of this condition include:

1. Dry Eye

Dry eye can be permanent or temporary. The temporary type of dry eyes can be due to irritants in the eyes, wearing contact lenses too much, or a result of some medication such as those for flu and the cold. Medicine for the cold works by drying up fluids to prevent a running nose for example. This may dry up the fluids in your eyes leading to dry eyes.

Temporary eye dryness is treatable using home remedies such as resting the eyes, eye drops and going away from the irritant.

Chronic dry eyes can be due to a condition called dry eye syndrome. This can be due to poor quality tears, or not producing enough tears.

Chronic dry eyes can be due to the following:

  • Age
  • Environmental conditions such as fast winds and smoke
  • Medical issues such as diabetes and arthritis
  • Infections of the eye
  • Using contact lenses for a long period
  • Refractive eye surgeries such as laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK)

For this condition, the solutions include the following:

  • Tear conservation through surgery or gel pugs on the tear ducts to prevent tear drainage
  • Eyelid treatment against inflammation
  • Taking lots of fluids to keep the eyes moisturized
  • Using air conditioners to increase the level of humidity in the air
  • Using eye drops to increase the tears in the eyes whenever needed
  • Increase the blinking rate whenever your eyes feel dry
  • Have sunglasses on when outdoors
  • Take supplements that improve the quality of your tears

You should always have the burning sensation in your eyes checked by a professional to stay safe.

2. Pterygium or Pinguecula

This condition causes a growth on the conjunctiva of the eye. It’s also called the surfer’s eye. It usually starts as a small yellow spot on the eye towards the nose.

If the Pinguecula grows further, it becomes a pterygium with the latter growing large enough to cover the cornea (darker part of the eye) in some cases.

The cause of these growths is overexposure to UV radiation. You can easily prevent them by protecting your eyes with goggles and sunglasses.

This isn’t a serious condition but will need treatment if it causes burning eyes or affects your vision. Lubricating steroid eyedrops are the most used solution.

3. Toxins, Allergens, and Toxins

One of the symptoms of allergic reactions to pets, pollen or even dust is burning eyes. Once the allergens are gone, the irritation will go away. Other times, pieces of makeup may get into your eyes leading to dry eye symptoms such as tears, burning eyes, and others.

Larger irritants like sand may even damage the eyes physically as they cause friction with the delicate eyes. Once you have such in your eyes, avoid rolling them as much as possible then have the object removed.

The large irritants may cause ulcers on the cornea. These corneal ulcers may get infected and cause the eyes to burn or hurt.

For this group of irritants, the simple solution is to remove the irritant our, if it’s too small, washing it away.

If chemicals get into your eyes, it’s a different case which requires more attention. Items such as household cleaners, sunscreen, gasoline, paint, and aerosol sprays contain irritants that may cause long term pain in the eyes.

Being around these chemicals will lead to burning eyes owing to the fumes they emit. If they enter your eyes, you’ll need the attention of a doctor or risk losing your sight if not attended to fast enough.

With allergens, however, you’ll need to be very careful as some may be due to allergic conjunctivitis which is more serious than common allergic reactions. The antibodies produced by the body in such a case often lead to burning eyes with lasting effects.

For these kinds of causes, the solutions include the following:

  • Taking antihistamines to reduce the severity of the allergens in the body
  • Avoiding allergens such as dust and pollen
  • Reducing the level of exposure your eyes will have to UV light as it’s a major irritant for the eyes
  • Avoid snow blindness by wearing protective eyewear when skiing or working in the snow

You should know your allergies and always try to avoid them at all times. Even without allergies, you should protect your eyes from chemicals and other potential irritants.

4. Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an eye condition in which the eyelids get inflamed or infected as a result of irritants, bacteria, or even mites.

With this condition, your eyelids will be swollen with the eyes being dry and itchy and with a burning feeling. The base of the eyes will have some oily discharge in the form of oily flakes.

The solution to this disease includes the following:

  • Using a warm compress to remove flakes and reduce the inflammation.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Eyelid scrubs
  • Soothing special eye drops
  • Proper eye and skin hygiene

Proper diagnosis helps in treating this condition before it runs out of control.

5. Conjunctivitis

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is a condition in which the transparent membrane of the eye, called the conjunctiva, gets infected or inflamed.

The conjunctiva covers the white part of the eye and should be clear in a healthy eye. When inflated or irritated, its blood vessels will become irritated and thus swollen and visible. As such, the eyes will become red and may even swell due to this condition. You will feel a burning sensation when your eyes have this condition.

Some the causes of the pink eye condition include the following:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Allergies
  • Incompletely opened tear ducts in newborn babies. 

Whenever you notice any itchy, dry, red, burning eye with discharge and watering that persists, it could be conjunctivitis. Given that it’s a contagious disease, ensure you treat yourself fast and don’t come into contact with other people till you’re healed.

6. Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the membranes on the joints. In such a case, the immune system dries up the membranes in the body among them the conjunctiva of the eye.

The result is similar to the dry eye syndrome as the eyes will have very little fluid to lubricate its movements. You will feel a burning sensation as the eyes will hurt from the increased friction.

7. Ocular Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin disease of the face. It involves the enlargement of facial blood vessels with the result being a flushed appearance of the nose and cheeks.

Often, the disease spreads to the eyes leading to ocular rosacea. This type causes burning eyes that get red and itchy.

Among the factors causing this disease include:

  • Blocked eyelid glands
  • Genetic setup
  • Eyelash mites
  • Environment
  • Bacteria

If not treated on time, it may affect your sight. These eye problems and other common eye conditions can lead to severe eye complications without proper diagnosis.

Get Your Burning Eyes Treated By Professionals

Burning eyes are only one of the many common symptoms you’ll have when experiencing eye problems. The solution to all eye problems lies in the proper diagnosis and treatment of the same.

At Drs. Campbell Cunningham, Taylor & Haun, we have over 60 years of experience working with patients in different areas of eye treatment. We treat various conditions of the eyes using industry-leading technology at our various centers.

If you run into any problems with our eyes or a loved one has similar issues, contact us for professional services.