Our eyes are one of the most sensitive organs in our body. It is made up of many delicate tissues and some of them are exposed. The outermost part of the eyes (which is exposed and which is visible to us) is covered by a very thin and transparent layer called the Conjunctiva. Moreover, we also have the eyelids to protect our eyes. Despite this, our eyes are prone to injuries, discomfort, and strain. Out of all, the most common eye discomfort that we experience is a burning sensation in the eye. This can be mild as well as severe. This often starts as a sensation of heat in your eyes and eventually feels like burning. Although eye burning is a nonemergency condition; however, if it continues, then that could be a sign of a serious underlying eye condition.
Here is a complete guide to Eye Burning:
What’s the difference between burning and heat sensation in eyes?
1. Eye Burning: A burning sensation in the eyes indicate inflammation or eye irritation. If anything gets into your eyes or in case of any other kind of inflammation, a burning sensation in the eyes is the first thing that you will experience before it starts to pain If the inflammation or irritation is severe, then only you will experience pain. A burning sensation in the eye is a warning that your eyes are under strain and you need to visit the eye specialist for further investigation.
2. Heat Sensation in Eyes: While eye burning is an excessive sensation of heat in the eyes, sometimes you may feel like heat is radiating out of your eyes. This heat sensation in the eyes is often followed by burning in the eyes. If you feel like heat is emanating from your eyes, then it’s an indication that your eyes irritated but to a lesser extent. Visit a doctor immediately otherwise the situation may get worse.
Why do the Eyes burn? – Causes of Eye Burning
Your eyes may burn for several reasons. Sometimes, the reasons are easy to tell. For instance, your eyes may burn if some chemical (contained in shampoos, cream, sunscreen lotions, and the water in the swimming pool) get into your eyes. Also, if you frequently use eye makeup, then also there is a scope of chemicals getting into your eyes (through eye makeup and cleansing products). However, there are many other reasons for eye burning. They are:
3. Eye Strain
This is the most common cause of burning eyes or a sensation of heat in your eyes. Eye strain may occur regularly or occasionally depending on the situation. Several every-day situations may cause eye strain. This includes:
- Watching television continuously, reading a book or staring at the computer or laptop or smartphone screen for long hours.
- Reading in low light.
- Eyesight problems may also cause eye burning. Problems such as nearsightedness or myopia, astigmatism, and farsightedness or hyperopia may cause eye burning, especially when you are not using contact lenses or corrective glasses.
- Exposure to bright lights and sunlight without wearing sunglasses may also cause eye burning.
Allergies often irritate your eyes. It irritates the lining of the eyes and often occurs along with conditions such as allergic rhinitis. This irritates both the eyes and the nose causing symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and burning of the eyes. This condition of the eye is also known as allergic conjunctivitis. In this condition, the eyes produce histamine for fighting allergens and that’s why the conjunctiva of the eyes becomes red and swollen. Your eyes may also feel like burning. Allergic conjunctivitis doesn’t spread from person to person. Exposure to substances such as pet hair, pollen, dust, and moulds may cause an allergic reaction.
Many medications that you might be taking may cause eye problems as a result of side effects. The most common side effects are dry eyes. This makes your eyes prone to infections and burning. Some of the drugs that may cause burning in your eyes and other problems include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Beta blockers
- Nasal decongestants
6. Eye infection
Eye infection is another cause of eye burning, itching and discharge. Eye infections may be caused due to several factors including:
- • A virus such as the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores may also cause eye burning and other eye issues.
- Bacterial infection
- Parasite or Fungal infection due to contaminated contact lenses
- Using unclean contact lenses
- Using expired eye drops
- Sharing contact lenses
- Wearing contact lenses for longer hours
- Sharing eye makeup
7. Eye injury
Any injury to the eye area may also cause eye burning, itching, and discharge. Eye injuries may occur while playing sports or working with chemicals. This is the reason it’s essential to wear protective eye glasses in such situations. If you wear contact lenses, you may even injure your eyes with your fingernail during putting in or taking out your contact lenses.
Eye Burning may also indicate other underlying causes such as:
8. Pterygium and Pinguecula
This condition is also known as Surfer’s Eye. Pinguecula and pterygium are growths on your conjunctiva.
Pinguecula is a yellow spot or bumps on your conjunctiva. This often appears on the side of the eye, close to the nose. It is a protein, fat, or calcium deposit on the conjunctiva.
Pterygium is a fleshy growth of tissue. It may start as a pinguecula and then eventually, grow. It may be a small growth or even become large enough to cover a part of the cornea. This may affect your vision.
Both these conditions are caused when you have dry eyes. These growths may cause by exposure to dust, wind, and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. To prevent such growths, you must:
- wear sunglasses with maximum UV protection whenever going out
- Wear glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from dust
- use artificial tears to keep your eyes dry
We all have bacteria on our skin. However, there are people who have more bacteria at the base of their eyelashes. Blepharitis is a condition caused by the presence of bacteria and oily flakes at the base of your eyelashes. As a result, the eyelids swell and become red. It may also feel like your eyes are burning. People with oily skin, dandruff, and dry eyes often suffer from this condition. People with this condition may have dandruff-like flakes on their eyelashes. Also, problematic oil glands in the eyelids may lead to blepharitis.
10. Dry Eyes
Dry eyes are yet another cause of eye burning. Your eyes need tears to stay healthy and comfortable. When your eyes do not produce enough tears it causes dry eye. You may get dry eyes if your eyes do not make the right type of tears. Hormonal changes often result in dry eyes. While both men and women can get dry eye but women are more prone to this condition, especially those who have undergone menopause.
Treating Eye Burning
There are several ways for treating eye burning. If your condition is not so serious, then you may even treat a mild eye burn at home.
Treating Burning Eyes at Home
11. Apply cool compresses on your eyes. This soothes burning and itching.
12. Apply warm compress. This helps in soften crusts (if there are any).
13. Use baby shampoo for washing the eyelids. Use cotton applicator for removing crusts from eyes.
14. Use artificial tears at least 4 to 6 times a day. This helps in treating burning and itchy eyes and other conditions related to dry eyes.
15. If you have allergies then stay away from pets, cosmetics, and grass. Your doctor may give you antihistamine eye drops for treating allergies.
16. If you have conjunctivitis, then wash your hand before and after touching your eyes and avoid touching the unaffected eye for the first few days.
17. Let your eyes rest for a while. Close your eyelids and rest in a dimly lit or dark room. This helps ease burning eyes.
18. Never rub the eyes or eyelids when it’s itching.
19. Start using sunglasses immediately. This will help avoid further irritation.
20. Use non-medicated eye drops for keeping the eyes moisturised.
21. Washing the eyes with water. This soothes the eyes and removes debris. However, do not repeat more than once or twice.
22. If your eyes are burning, immediately remove contact lenses. Start using glasses if the burning is intense and cause tear and redness in the eyes.
When to Visit the Doctor?
If home treatment doesn’t soothe your eyes then there is something seriously wrong with them. Visit a doctor immediately if you experience the following symptoms:
23. If the burning sensation is accompanied by pain or excessive light sensitivity, then visit an eye specialist immediately. Consult a doctor if you experience blurred and double vision, have any eye discharge, see eye floaters or flashes of light or any other unexpected symptoms.
24. Even if you do not experience these additional symptoms but your eyes are burning for more than a few days, contact your eye doctor immediately.
For diagnosing the exact cause of the burning eyes, your eye doctor may perform the following eye exams:
- Slit lamp exam
- Visual field exam
- Eye motion
- Reaction of your pupils to light
The doctor may also check your conjunctiva, cornea, and your vision.
Ways to Prevent Burning Eyes
Here are several tips to help you avoid a burning sensation in your eyes:
25. Avoid any kind of environment that you know may cause burning eyes.
26. Visit your eye doctor regularly. If the burning sensation is caused any underlying condition, only a doctor can find out the reason that’s causing the burning sensation.
27. If you wear contact lenses, inform your doctor about the symptoms that you’re experiencing.
28. Do not discontinue medication or switch contact lens solutions. If you are experiencing eye irritation or eye burning, let your doctor know. They will prescribe you a different solution or medication.
29. Wear goggles, sunglass, face mask or any other eye wear whenever you are going out or participating in any outdoor activity. This helps in reducing light sensitivity and risk of injury.
30. Eat a well-balanced diet. Learn more about vitamins and nutrients that are healthy for your eyes. Include them in your diet.
31. If you suffer from any a condition which is causing a burning sensation in your eyes (such as dry eye syndrome), try to control the conditions. This will help in reducing the symptoms.
32. If any changes occur in your vision or eyes, NEVER ignore that.
33. When working on a computer screen:
- Always put it about 20-26 inches away from your eyes and just a bit below your eyes level.
- Regularly clean off the dust from the surface of the computer. Dust accumulation on the surface of the monitor may reduce contrast and create problems such as glare and reflections.
- Always go for screens that tilt and swivel.
- Always use glare filter for your screen.
34. Change your work environment.
- Change the lighting of your environment to avoid glare and harsh reflections.
- Always use an adjustable chair.
35. Change your work habits.
- When working on a computer, try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at any object about 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Blink often.
- Take regular breaks and look away from the computer screen.
- To prevent dry eyes when indoor, use an air cleaner to filter dust and a humidifier. This adds moisture to the air.
Most importantly, follow the instructions of your eye specialist thoroughly to keep your eyes healthy. We hope that these tips will help you take better care of your eyes and avoid any discomfort.