Skip to Content

  • Print
 
E-mail Form
Email Results

 
 
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Eye burning - itching and discharge

Itching - burning eyes; Burning eyes

Eye burning with discharge is burning, itching, or drainage from the eye of any substance other than tears.

Causes

Causes may include:

  • Allergies, including seasonal allergies or hay fever
  • Infections, bacterial or viral (conjunctivitis or pink eye)
  • Chemical irritants (such as chlorine in a swimming pool or makeup)
  • Dry eyes
  • Irritants in the air (cigarette smoke or smog)

Home Care

Apply cool compresses to soothe itching.

Apply warm compress to soften crusts if they have formed. Washing the eyelids with baby shampoo on a cotton applicator can also help remove crusts.

Using artificial tears 4 to 6 times a day can be helpful for almost all causes of burning and irritation, especially dry eyes.

If you have allergies, try to avoid the cause (pets, grasses, cosmetics) as much as possible. Your health care provider may give you antihistamine eye drops to help with allergies.

Pink eye or viral conjunctivitis causes a red or bloodshot eye and excessive tearing. It may be highly contagious for the first few days. The infection will run its course in about 10 days. If you suspect pink eye:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching the unaffected eye

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if:

  • The discharge is thick, greenish, or resembles pus. (This may be from bacterial conjunctivitis.)
  • You have excessive eye pain or sensitivity to light.
  • Your vision is decreased.
  • You have increased swelling in the eyelids.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will get a medical history and will perform a physical exam.

Questions you may be asked include:

  • What does the eye drainage look like?
  • When did the problem start?
  • Is it in one eye or both eyes?
  • Is your vision affected?
  • Are you sensitive to light?
  • Does anyone else at home or work have a similar problem?
  • Do you have any new pets, linens, or carpets, or are you using different laundry soap?
  • Do you also have a head cold or sore throat?
  • What treatments have you tried so far?

The physical exam may include a check-up of your:

  • Cornea
  • Conjunctiva
  • Eyelids
  • Eye motion
  • Pupils reaction to light
  • Vision

Depending on the cause of the problem, your provider may recommend treatments such as:

  • Lubricating eye drops for dry eyes
  • Antihistamine eye drops for allergies
  • Antiviral drops or ointments for certain viral infections such as herpes
  • Antibiotic eye drops for bacterial conjunctivitis

Follow your provider's instructions exactly. With treatment, you should gradually improve. You should be back to normal in 1 to 2 weeks unless the problem is a chronic one like dry eyes.

References

Cioffi GA, Liebmann JM. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 395.

Dupre AA, Wightman JM. Red and painful eye. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 19.

Rubenstein JB, Spektor T. Allergic conjunctivitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.7.

Rubenstein JB, Spektor T. Conjunctivitis: infectious and noninfectious. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.6.

  • How to use eye drops

    Animation

  •  

    How to use eye drops - Animation

    I'm Dr. Alan Greene and let's talk about how to put eye drops in. The problem people often have is when you tilt your head back and you see that dropper looming up there and the drops start falling down, it's a natural response to blink. You can send that drop spraying where you don't want it to go. And it can be a little uncomfortable to have that drop come down and strike your eye. If you can keep your eyes open, that's great and it works very well. But if you can't like many people, if not most people, not to worry. There's another way that works very, very well. And what you do is you'll simply tilt your head back hold the dropper right above your eyes with your eyes closed. You don't want the dropper to actually touch the eye because you can contaminate the dropper or your eye, one or the other if there's an infection involved somewhere. Just do like this - couple drops right in the corner and then blink while you're head is still up. And when you do that it will slip right in very comfortably and you'll get the whole dosage in and it works very well.

  • External and internal eye anatomy

    External and internal eye anatomy - illustration

    The cornea allows light to enter the eye. As light passes through the eye the iris changes shape by expanding and letting more light through or constricting and letting less light through to change pupil size. The lens then changes shape to allow the accurate focusing of light on the retina. Light excites photoreceptors that eventually, through a chemical process, transmit nerve signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain processes these nerve impulses into sight.

    External and internal eye anatomy

    illustration

  • How to use eye drops

    Animation

  •  

    How to use eye drops - Animation

    I'm Dr. Alan Greene and let's talk about how to put eye drops in. The problem people often have is when you tilt your head back and you see that dropper looming up there and the drops start falling down, it's a natural response to blink. You can send that drop spraying where you don't want it to go. And it can be a little uncomfortable to have that drop come down and strike your eye. If you can keep your eyes open, that's great and it works very well. But if you can't like many people, if not most people, not to worry. There's another way that works very, very well. And what you do is you'll simply tilt your head back hold the dropper right above your eyes with your eyes closed. You don't want the dropper to actually touch the eye because you can contaminate the dropper or your eye, one or the other if there's an infection involved somewhere. Just do like this - couple drops right in the corner and then blink while you're head is still up. And when you do that it will slip right in very comfortably and you'll get the whole dosage in and it works very well.

  • External and internal eye anatomy

    External and internal eye anatomy - illustration

    The cornea allows light to enter the eye. As light passes through the eye the iris changes shape by expanding and letting more light through or constricting and letting less light through to change pupil size. The lens then changes shape to allow the accurate focusing of light on the retina. Light excites photoreceptors that eventually, through a chemical process, transmit nerve signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain processes these nerve impulses into sight.

    External and internal eye anatomy

    illustration

A Closer Look

 
 

Review Date: 11/15/2019

Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com

 
 
 

 

 

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.