Eye irritations

What is an eye irritation? 

The term eye irritation refers to sensations of dryness, itchiness, pain, or grittiness in the eye. 

What causes eye irritations and what are the symptoms?

Many factors can cause eye irritation, including injuries, dry eye, and pink eye.

Dry eye disease:
When someone has dry eye disease, their tears do not keep their eyes nourished or lubricated. They either do not make enough tears, or their tears do not have the right balance of oil, water, and mucus to clean the eye. Doctors also call the condition “dysfunctional tear syndrome.”

The symptoms include:

  • itchy eyes
  • a gritty feeling in the eyes
  • burning pain
  • sensitivity to light
  • blurry vision
  • the sensation of something being in the eye
  • watery eyes

Eye injuries:
Eye injuries are a common cause of eye irritation. For example, impact to the eye from a person or an object, splashing a chemical into the eye, or getting grit or sand in the eye can all result in injury.

Symptoms might include:

  • pain
  • vision problems
  • cuts or abrasion on the eyelid or on the surface of the eye
  • discomfort when moving the eye
  • blood in the clear part of the eye
  • difficulty blinking
  • the eye being swollen shut
  • changes in the size of the pupil
  • changes in how the pupil looks

Pink eye:

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, happens when something irritates the lining of the front of the eye.

The symptoms of pink eye include:

  • red eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • swollen eyelids
  • teary eyes
  • a thick, mucus discharge that dries to form a crust

There are three main types of conjunctivitis:

  • bacterial conjunctivitis
  • viral conjunctivitis
  • allergic conjunctivitis


A stye forms when there is an abnormal buildup of bacteria in the glands of your eyelids, usually resulting in a pimple-like growth on the lining of your eyelid. These are typically painful, feel larger than they are, and cause your eyes to water. Popping a stye usually makes the problem worse. Instead, use a warm compress to alleviate the pain and pressure.


Excess bacteria at the base of the eyelashes may lead to this type of infection. Inflammation of the eyes leads to redness, blurry vision, itchy eyes and eyelids, and the feeling that something is constantly in your eyes. Leaving make-up on your eyes overnight or rubbing your eyes with dirty hands puts you at risk.

How are eye irritations prevented?

Preventing eye irritations involves simple hygiene habits that reduce your chances of exposing your eyes to infectious bacteria, fungi, and viruses. While some of these choices may seem obvious, it’s important to be mindful of these simple preventative measures and teach younger family members good hygiene habits.

  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes excessively
  • Do not share cosmetics with others
  • Replace cosmetics and applicators if you develop an eye infection
  • Avoid exposure to smoke (tobacco), chemical fumes, and other irritating substances
  • Remove makeup before bed
  • Keep your contact lenses and case clean per your eye doctor’s instructions
  • Avoid wearing contacts overnight
  • Replace your contact lens case every three months
  • Maintain a high standard of hygiene with bedding, towels, and clothing

How are eye irritations treated?

Visit your doctor to help determine the cause of your symptoms and the best course of treatment. If your symptoms persist longer than 7 days or they intensify suddenly, then visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Patient First treats many conditions at our urgent care centers including eye irritations. You can visit any Patient First center from 8am to 8pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed