Are there times your eyes start burning seemingly out of nowhere? Or do you feel the same type of burning sensation each day? There are several reasons that your eyes may feel irritated, uncomfortable, or like they are burning. Lifestyle, health, and environment play a big part in how your eyes feel on a regular basis.
Regular eye exams allow eye doctors to review your ocular health and assess why your eyes are burning or showing symptoms of dry eye. Your eyes could be affected by other eye conditions that are present, or underlying conditions that can put your eyes at risk of an emergency. Let’s explore some common reasons that your eyes might be burning.
Understanding Dry Eye
Dry eye is an eye condition affecting 30% of Canadians that can leave the eyes feeling itchy and uncomfortable. Your eyes feel like they’re burning because your tears are not being produced sufficiently or your tears do not have a normal composition to keep your eyes properly lubricated.
The intensity of dry eye can change day to day and the signs may vary. But these symptoms are indicators that you may have dry eye:
- A burning or stinging sensation in your eyes
- Stringy mucus or discharge around your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness and puffiness
- Constantly watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
Dry eye disease itself has many causes. The best way to manage dry eye and relieve symptoms depends on the root cause of your dry burning eyes. Our optometrists assess your tear production, composition and symptoms during an eye exam. From there, your dry eye therapy strategy and treatments are recommended.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)
The meibomian glands are located in your eyelids and produce an oil called meibum. This oil is responsible for creating the oily layer of your tears, which prevents tears from evaporating rapidly. When these glands are not functioning normally, it’s known as MGD.
Blepharitis is an eyelid inflammatory condition associated with MGM that leads to red and burning eyes. It is the result of inflamed skin at the lid margins, often accompanied by lid margin rosacea, leading to oil glands in the eyelids not producing proper oils. The glands become plugged, can be infected, and the tear film becomes unstable. This will make your eyes feel like they are burning.
Digital Eye Strain
Digital Eye Strain, or computer vision syndrome (CVS), is a condition associated with staring at digital screens. When your eyes are doing too much near work, like staring at tablets, cell phones, or laptops, and blinking less, they can become fatigued and show symptoms of dry eye.
Digital eye strain can make your eyes feel like they are dry and burning. You can manage this condition at home or work with some simple techniques:
- Try setting up your workspace in a more ergonomic fashion.
- You may want to try blue light blocking glasses that filter certain light from your digital screen.
- Make sure to always follow the 20-20-20 Rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break from your device, and look at something 20 feet away.
Dry Eye Treatments
There are dry eye treatments that can help manage the symptoms of patients with chronic dry eyes. Dry eye therapy is the ongoing effort to reduce the burning and other sensations caused by improperly lubricated eyes.
Artificial tears are one way to improve some moisture in your eyes and eliminate dry eye symptoms at least temporarily. In some cases, medicated eye drops such as Xiidra or Restasis may be prescribed. Pharmaceutical eye drops require specific instructions for use, which your optometrist will provide.
Keeping your eyelids clean is important for managing blepharitis. There are several lid hygiene products available such as cleansing wipes and solutions, that can help prevent infection and build up of irritants.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) is part of a comprehensive approach to managing dry eye disease. IPL has been safely used for years in dermatology and has now been shown to improve symptoms for people with dry eye. IPL treats inflammation caused by blood vessels in our eyelids, which in turn leads to meibomian gland dysfunction.
Radiofrequency therapy (RF) is another dermatology technology that is being applied to optometry. RF is a very effective eyelid heat treatment to stimulate healthy gland production for fully functioning tears. Talk to your eye doctor to see if this treatment is right for you.
Other Reasons Your Eyes Burn
Your burning eyes might be a product of a hostile environment. Weather and climate conditions can affect the way your eyes feel, especially if you are prone to dry eyes. Sometimes a burning sensation is a product of a foreign substance in your eye. This may require immediate emergency eye care.
Make sure to always wear sunglasses when your eyes are exposed to sunlight to reduce your ocular health risks. Beyond UV exposure, the following environmental factors can also contribute to irritated eyes:
- Strong winds
- Very dry climates
- Dry air from a heater or air conditioner
- Very cold climates
The changing seasons expose some people to eye allergies. Eye allergies produce similar symptoms to dry eye, making your eyes red and itchy, watery, and feeling burned. Conjunctivitis is an eye infection often caused by a reaction to allergens or chemicals.
Allergens in the air react with your immune system, which leads to inflammation and negative symptoms for some people. These allergens include:
Try these tips to help manage your burning eyes during allergy season.
If the burning sensation in your eye is sudden or intense, it could indicate a foreign substance in your eye. A foreign substance includes dirt, debris, objects, and chemical liquids. Eye exposure to chemicals can be very dangerous and demands immediate attention.
If there is an object embedded in your eye, do not rub your eye or attempt to remove the object as this may cause further damage. Should you get any chemicals in your eyes, use the nearest source of cool, clean water to flush your eye for at least 15 minutes.
Contact our office immediately for emergency eye care if a burning pain escalates, or if you have a foreign substance in your eye. Visit your nearest hospital if you can’t reach us or can’t make it to our office in sufficient time.
Turn Down the Burn
Your eyes may burn for several reasons, from smokey air to long computer sessions. But burning, itchy sensations are often associated with dry eyes. There are different dry eye therapy solutions available, depending on the underlying cause of your burning eyes.
Getting a comprehensive eye exam is the first step in helping your eyes feel relieved. Don’t let your eyes suffer, consult your optometrist for the best steps to healthy vision.