The brief burning sensation you may feel in your eyes is commonly due to a minor irritation that disappears once your tears wash it out.
However, if the burning sensation persists for more than a few hours, it may indicate a severe problem such as pink eye (conjunctivitis), dry eyes, blepharitis, or an allergic reaction.
The only way to diagnose and treat burning eyes is to visit an eye doctor like Dr. Jenny Chan at Clarity Eyecare.
Eye conditions that can cause burning eyes
Dry eye syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is the leading cause of a burning sensation in the eyes. Healthy tears consist of a balance of oil, mucus and water, and when the components are not in the right quantities and ratios, the eyes become dry and irritated — which can result in a burning sensation.
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, can be caused by a highly contagious viral or bacterial infection that can affect one or both eyes. The symptoms include watery, burning, or itchy eyes.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that causes sore, red eyelids as well as crusty debris at the base of the eyelashes. Symptoms include a burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, grittiness, and itchy eyelids.
What environmental factors cause burning eyes?
Certain elements can also cause a burning sensation in the eyes, such as allergens, chemicals, perfumes, or getting tiny particles stuck in one’s peepers.
Allergens in the air or in your home, such as pet dander or mold, can cause your eyes to itch, tear up, and burn.
Certain chemicals found in household cleaning supplies can cause you to experience a burning sensation. The volatile compounds found in aerosol sprays and disinfectants are not only polluting but also irritating to the eyes.
Certain people who are sensitive to fragrances from perfume, cologne, shampoo, or skin cream can experience eye irritation, resulting in a burning sensation.
Foreign particles in your eye
When particles get stuck in the eyes, it not only hurts but can also lead to a burning feeling in the eyes.
The connection between burning eyes and dry eyes
Tears are necessary for maintaining eye health and for providing clear and comfortable vision. Whenever tiny foreign particles enter the eye, tears form and clean out the eye while keeping the eye moist. However, when tears evaporate too quickly and the eyes become dry, as in the case of dry eyes, it can lead to an itchy and burning sensation in the eyes.
What causes dry eyes?
Dry eye syndrome can be caused by many factors, such as age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, medications, and overall eye health. No matter the factor, the result is the same: your eyes are either not producing enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated or the tears are not formulated with the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucus to maintain proper lubrication.
What factors cause dry eyes?
Age: Dry eyes tend to occur more frequently in older adults. The majority of those over 65 years of age tend to experience some form of dry eyes.
Gender: Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes, whether due to pregnancy, oral contraceptives, or menopause.
Medicines: Certain medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and SSRIs can affect tear production.
Medical conditions: Those with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems can develop symptoms of dry eyes. Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids), inflammation of the surface of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can also lead to dry eyes.
Environment: Dry eyes can result from exposure to smoke, wind, and dry climates, which can cause tears to evaporate.
Additional factors: Long-term contact lens use and refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can reduce tear production and lead to dry eyes. Dry eyes can also occur in those who fail to blink regularly, which typically occurs when staring at a computer screen for extended periods of time.
How to treat burning eyes
If you feel a burning sensation in your eyes, talk to an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Dr. Chan will carefully diagnose and detect the cause of your discomfort. If you are diagnosed with dry eyes, she might recommend medicated eye drops or artificial tears to alleviate the burning sensation and ensure that your eyes remain moisturized all day long. In more severe cases, steroid drops may be prescribed for quick, short-term relief.
If the eye exam shows you have pink eye or blepharitis, anti-inflammatory drops will be prescribed. These drops can provide major relief as they target the source of the issue quickly and effectively.
If allergies are the culprit, we can help with that, too. Antihistamines and decongestants can alleviate your symptoms and minimize or even eliminate the burning sensation.
Want your healthy eyes back? Book an eye exam with Clarity Eyecare and say goodbye to burning eyes for good.
We help patients in the greater Baltimore area. We are located at the Lake Falls Village shopping center in Mount Washington.