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What causes eyes to itch?

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Quick Answer

Causes of itching eyes, or ocular pruritis, include dry eye syndrome, contact dermatoblepharitis, contact lens–induced conjunctivitis, meibomian gland dysfunction and allergic reactions such as vernal keratoconjunctivitis, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Many of the causes have an immunological basis.

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Full Answer

Ophthalmologists usually diagnose ocular pruritis through a careful analysis of a patient's history and a thorough physical examination, explains the American Academy of Ophthalmology. For the history, doctors look at the onset, duration and frequency of the symptoms and ask the patient questions to help narrow down the diagnosis. With the physical examination, they look at the eyelids, conjunctiva and cornea.

Treatment for itching eyes depends on the underlying causes, notes the American Academy of Ophthalmology. For instance, with dry eye syndrome, the appropriate treatment course may include artificial tears, lubricating ointments, topical immunomodulators and punctual plugs. With vernal keratoconjunctivitis, topical antihistamines and mast-cell stabilizers are the first course of action followed by topical corticosteroids, immunomodulators and supratarsal corticosteroid injections for the more aggressive forms.

It is essential that ophthalmologists follow up frequently on any treatment for ocular pruritis, states the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Patients on topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, and those taking topical corticosteroids need close monitoring because of the risk of developing corneal perforation and corticosteroid-induced ocular hypertension, respectively.

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