What Causes Burning in Eyes?

Eyes are probably the most delicate part of your entire body. At the same time, they are highly exposed to the dangers of infections and injuries. One of the most common problems in eyes is burning.

Burning of eyes is not itself a disorder. It is, in fact, a symptom that something is wrong and your attention is required. Most of the time, the burning sensation felt in the eyes can be diagnosed and treated quickly with the help of over-the-counter drugs.

However, in some cases, this problem gets complicated and require specialized treatment and handling.

This article will take a look at causes of burning eyes. It will further discuss a few diseases that might have a role in causing this feeling. Lastly, the treatment of this problem will be discussed.

What are the Causes of Burning of Eyes?

The burning of eyes is a sensation that leads to constant irritation or stinging. Some reasons why your eyes may be burning are discussed below.


Blepharitis refers to a condition in which your eyelids swell up. The disease includes dandruff-like skin, particularly at the base of your eyelids. Flaking is also a common sign observed in blepharitis.

Blepharitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. In addition to flaking of skin, certain other symptoms such as swelling of the eye and eye redness may also be observed in blepharitis.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes refer to a condition in which the normal level of hydration and moisture in the eyes decrease to a great extent. Tear mechanism is the primary mechanism through which the eyes maintain their moisture.

In certain cases, the tear formation gets reduced causing a feeling of dryness to occur. This problem is usually common in women and people with older ages. Other symptoms that may accompany dry eyes include:

  • Pain
  • Redness in eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Eyelids feeling a lot heavier than usual

Allergies of the Eyes

Like your respiratory tract, the eyes are also prone to various allergies. The condition is commonly referred to as allergic conjunctivitis and occurs as an irritating allergen makes its way into the eyes.

The foreign substance is immediately recognized by the immune system of the body. The immune system, therefore, responds by up-regulating the levels of histamine. This is what leads to burning in the eyes.

What are some of the most common triggers of the eye?

These may include substances such as smoke, pollen, dust, pet dander, foods, and perfumes.

Allergic conjunctivitis has a lot of other manifestations which may include redness of the eye, excessive tearing, swelling, and constant itchiness in the eyes.

burning of eyes

Eye Sunburn

Did you think that skin is the only body part vulnerable to damage by sunlight? Well, you are clearly wrong because your eyes have a higher sensitivity towards sunlight. Overexposing your eyes to the harmful ultraviolet radiation may lead to sunburn, which in this case will be referred to as photokeratitis.

In addition to the burning of eyes, eye sunburn may produce the following symptoms:

  • Watering of eyes
  • Pain
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Experiencing halos of light
  • Feeling gritty

Ocular Rosacea

Ocular rosacea is an extension of acne rosacea to the eyes. Acne rosacea is a skin disorder in which the face becomes red and flushed. Ocular rosacea can occur as its complication and is a condition in which the eyelids of the patient become inflamed.

Some other symptoms that may accompany ocular rosacea may include:

  • Increased sensitivity towards light
  • Pain in the eyes
  • In severe cases, loss of vision may occur


Pterygium refers to a condition in which fleshy tissues grows on the white part of the eye known as conjunctiva. It is commonly seen on the medial side of eye i.e. towards the nose. However, it can also occur in the outward or the temporal region of the eye.

Pterygium is usually caused by the combination of two factors i.e. increased exposure to the ultraviolet light together with dry eyes.

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The symptoms of this disease may include:

  • Swelling of eye
  • Burning sensation
  • Itchiness
  • Redness

In certain cases, the growth extends and covers the entire cornea, impairing the vision.

How to Make a Diagnosis?

Identification of an underlying cause that may be triggering burning in the eyes is quite important. If you are suffering from a constant feeling of burning in the eyes, it is important to consult a doctor right away.

burning of eyes

A doctor can help make a diagnosis of the burning eyes by getting a medical history. This is accomplished by asking the patients certain questions and inquiring more about his symptoms.

The doctor may ask about the exact time when the symptoms began to appear, what makes these symptoms better or worse, and if the patient has any past history of an eye disease.

It is also a part of the examination to inquire if the patient is taking any medications at the moment. This is because certain medications, for example, the decongestants, can lead to burning of eyes.

After taking a complete medical history, a doctor will conduct a complete physical examination of the eyes. Some of the factors that he may be looking for include dryness, irregularities, or any damage.

For physical examination, it is likely that the doctor will use any scopes or other specialized tools to observe the eyes more closely and clearly.

In certain cases, eye drops are used that allow the doctors to look at the moisture level and the flow of tears in the eyes more closely.

What are the Treatment Options for Eye Burning?

There are a lot of treatment options for burning in the eyes. However, the preferable mode of intervention depends on the cause of this problem. For example, if the cause of burning sensation in eyes is a bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops for treating it.

Most of the time, the treatment focuses on reducing dryness in the eyes. Some other interventions, however, include:

  • Maintaining eye hygiene by cleaning the margins of eyelids, especially near the base of the eyelashes. This can be accomplished by using lukewarm water and a mild cleanser. The eye can be pat dry gently right after cleansing it.
  • Application of lubricating eye drops as this will help in the reduction of redness and will increase the eye comfort. For extreme dryness, a doctor is likely to prescribe lubricating eye drops or even artificial tears.
  • Application of a warm compress on the eyes. To make a compress, soak a soft, clean towel in warm water and place it on the eyes.
  • Use of antihistamine eye drops or tablets for reduction of the allergic symptoms in the eyes.
  • Use of supplements such as fish oil. This is because these supplements can reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. They are also useful for people who are suffering from ocular rosacea.
  • Consuming a lot of water throughout the day to maintain moisture in the eyes and decrease dehydration.
  • Wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV radiation.

burning of eyes


Burning of eyes can be a discomforting and an extremely painful condition. Nevertheless, it is completely treatable by correctly identifying any underlying cause and reducing the element of dryness in the eyes.

If you are suffering from any severe symptoms such as loss of vision, it is recommended to see a doctor right away.

Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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