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3 Common Causes of Itchy, Watery, Irritated Eyes


By Sarah Parker Ward

If the eyes are the window to your soul, what does it say when your eyes are itchy and watery?

Watery, red or itchy eyes can be bothersome, no matter what time of year, and there are a variety of reasons why your eyes may be irritated. Here's what you need to find out what causes red, watery, itchy eyes and to treat the source.

A man rubbing his itchy eyes
  1. Seasonal and Year-Round Eye Allergies: Eye allergies (also referred to as allergic conjunctivitis) are the most common cause of eye redness, itching, and excessive tearing. Often associated with other hay fever symptoms like sneezing and runny nose, eye allergies can be seasonal if they are triggered by pollen, or they can strike year-round if you’re allergic to things like mold, dust, or pet dander. Suspect eye allergies are the cause of your itchy, watery eye symptoms? Try gently flushing the eyes with cool water. And if the issue continues, consider using over-the-counter eye drops containing an antihistamine, like VISINE®-A Multi-Action Eye Allergy Relief, may help.
  2. External Eye Irritation: Another common cause of watery and itchy eyes is eye irritation. Maybe you rubbed your eyes too much; maybe you forgot to take your contact lens out before bedtime; or perhaps some dirt or sand blew into your eyes. Whatever the culprit for your eye irritation, again, flushing the eye(s) with cool water may help remove the irritant. Or try a soothing eyedrop like VISINE® A.C. Ultra Itchy Eye Relief, which can provide relief from eye irritation and redness.
  3. Blepharitis, Dry Eye, and Other Medical Eye Conditions: It’s also important to know that there are several medical conditions that can cause chronically itchy or watery eyes.
  • For example, blepharitis is a condition where the tiny oil glands found near the base of the eyelashes become clogged causing the eyelids to become inflamed. While the condition isn’t contagious, it can be unsightly and cause a gritty or burning feeling in the eyes. Ouch! Thankfully, there are prescription medicines that can help ease your symptoms including topical anti-inflammatories or antibiotics, so talk to your doctor if you think you may be experiencing blepharitis.
  • Low tear production can cause another common condition called dry eye (sometimes referred to as dry eye syndrome). A cold, low-humidity environment isn’t just tough on your skin; when temperatures or humidity levels dip, dry eye sufferers can experience a burning sensation in their eyes, and ironically, they may over-produce tears as the eye tries to compensate for its dryness, becoming watery. The good news is that most cases of dry eye can be treated with over-the-counter lubricating drops, and for more severe cases, your doctor can prescribe medications that may help.
  • There are other diseases and conditions that can lead to itchy and watery eyes including hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, and certain medications. And sometimes aging can be a factor. So, if you have persistent issues with your eyes being irritated, talk to your doctor who can help you determine the root cause and properly treat it. You’ll be feeling better in the blink of an eye!

Third-party references and links provided in this article are for educational purposes only. No sponsorship or endorsement is implied. Information was used from Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health.

©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019

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