eye health

Burning in the eyes

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Burning eyes is a common symptom of various eye diseases. One of the main causes of burning eyes is accidental exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke and dust; however, a variety of other factors, both ocular and extra-ocular, can induce this manifestation.


Burning eyes can be associated with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying medical condition. Often, this annoying manifestation occurs along with itching, redness and eye irritation. Some people, when they experience burning eyes, also complain of blurred vision, increased sensitivity to light and difficulty in reading.

The burning sensation is often associated with other ocular symptoms such as:

  • Excessive tearing;
  • Red and irritated eyes;
  • Dryness;
  • Eye pain;
  • Feeling that something is inside an eye;
  • Eye secretion;
  • Photophobia (light annoyance);
  • Itch.

The causes and symptoms can involve not only the eyes but also other organs of the body. For example, the nasal manifestations that can accompany burning eyes include:

  • Retronasal drain;
  • A runny nose;
  • Sneezing;
  • Closed nose or nasal congestion.

In some cases, burning eyes can be a symptom of a serious illness that should be assessed in an emergency setting. The condition requires medical attention if the following signs also arise:

  • Bleeding from the eye;
  • Secretions of dense material of yellow or greenish color;
  • Sudden alteration of visual function, blurred or double vision;
  • Excessive eye pain;
  • Flashes of light (photopsia);
  • Mythesopsia (appearance of moving bodies, black spots, dark spots or streaks, in the visual field).


Several causes can contribute to burning eyes. One of the events that this symptom occasionally causes is exposure to environmental irritants (such as tobacco smoke, smog and dust) or chemicals in household cleaners, such as bleach. A burning sensation can also be experienced when shampoo or soap accidentally comes into contact with the eyes.

Even seasonal or perennial allergies can cause ocular inflammation (allergic conjunctivitis) that typically occurs with this symptom. Burning eyes can develop as a result of the reaction to airborne allergens, such as pollen or animal hair, or placed in direct contact with the conjunctival mucosa, such as makeup and moisturizing creams. Obviously, among the main causes that cause this manifestation are included various pathologies that affect the eye and ocular adnexa, such as dry keratoconjunctivitis (dry eye syndrome), conjunctivitis or blepharitis. Even upper respiratory tract infections, such as the flu or a cold, can be accompanied by burning eyes.

Environmental causes of burning eyes

  • Exposure to dust, sand and wind;
  • Exposure to the sun, without protective glasses;
  • Smog and cigarette smoke (also passive);
  • Allergens: pollen, dust mites, mold or pet dander.

Chemical causes of burning eyes

  • Irritating chemicals in the air;
  • Household cleaners;
  • Shampoos, sprays and / or hair dyes;
  • Soap, perfumes and cosmetics for skin care or eye make-up;
  • Chlorine in swimming pools.

Pathological conditions

  • Allergies;
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis;
  • Viral conjunctivitis;
  • Dry eye syndrome;
  • Blepharitis;
  • Periorbital cellulitis;
  • Uveitis and iritis;
  • Sjögren syndrome;
  • Rosacea;
  • Wegener's granulomatosis .

Other causes

  • Age (alteration of the tear film linked to aging);
  • Drugs (as a side effect);
  • Wear contact lenses for prolonged periods , do not remove them overnight and do not change them regularly;
  • Absence of eye protection in hazardous work environments (example: welding processes);
  • Excessive use of computer monitors or televisions (eye strain);
  • Irritation caused by a foreign body.

When to see a doctor

If the burning in the eyes persists or becomes chronic it can be a sign of a serious underlying condition, such as an allergy or an eye infection. Generally, ocular symptoms that do not respond to treatment should be evaluated by a doctor.


Treatment for burning eyes depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the concomitant manifestations. After a thorough eye examination , pharmacological therapy may be indicated to help relieve symptoms. This may include antibiotic drops, eye ointments, saline rinses, artificial tears or antihistamines.

Often, once the exposure to an irritant is eliminated, the burning of the eyes resolves spontaneously within a short time. In other cases, the use of artificial tears or antihistamines (orally, eye drops or ointments) can alleviate symptoms and support the therapy indicated for the underlying condition. If the cause is a bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe eye drops or ointments containing an antibiotic. To avoid burning eyes it is very important to take precautionary measures: avoid environmental pollutants, use a humidifier if the environment is very dry (for example, for heating in closed rooms) and make sure to wash your hands frequently when handling contact lenses. Applying cold compresses on the eyelids, for about 10 minutes, can be a simple home remedy that offers relief.


Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important to follow the therapeutic protocol that the doctor indicates to manage the disorder correctly. This reduces the risk of potential complications such as impaired visual function or the spread of infection.