HomeWhat causes itchy eyelids?

What causes itchy eyelids?

Why your eyelids itch

Several things can make your eyelids feel itchy. Seasonal allergies are the most common cause, but other triggers can make your eyelids itch too. The itchy feeling can happen in one eyelid or both eyelids at the same time.

Different causes can call for different treatments, so it’s important to use the right remedy for your specific problem.

You can usually treat itchy eyelids yourself, but some cases may need professional treatment from a doctor.

If your eyelids itch for any reason, it’s generally a good idea to remove contact lenses and stop using any eye makeup or cleansers near your eyes. Then avoid use as much as possible until the itchiness goes away.

Itchy eyelid causes and treatment

The most common causes of itchy eyelids are:

Eye allergies

Seasonal allergies can cause bothersome symptoms in and around the eyes, including an itchy feeling along your eyelids. If you’re allergic to them, allergens like pollen, pet dander and dust mites can all affect your eyelids and make them itch.

Other irritants, like the chlorine in a swimming pool, can make your eyelids itch too.

You might also notice that your eyelids are swollen and your eyes are red and watery.

The good news is that eye allergies are usually manageable. Addressing and treating your allergies will help you prevent itchy eyelid flare-ups in the future.

Recommended treatment: 

  • Avoid irritants, pollutants and allergens whenever possible.

  • Use artificial tears to rinse your eyes and reduce the risk of itching.

  • Manage symptoms with over-the-counter allergy medications.

  • See an allergist for itchy eyelids that persist even with treatment.

SEE RELATED: What causes swollen eyelids?

Allergic reaction

An allergic reaction can come on suddenly, causing itchiness and inflammation in your eyes and eyelids. This can happen if you’re allergic to:

  • Foods

  • Medications

  • Cosmetic

  • Other substances or ingredients

Mild reactions may be treated and monitored at home, but if the reaction won’t go away or gets worse, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.

Serious allergic reactions can cause severe swelling of the eyelids, face, mouth or tongue. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Recommended treatment: 

  • Stop using cosmetics or medication that may be causing a reaction.

  • Take over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl to temporarily relieve symptoms.

  • Use a cool compress to relieve eyelid itching or discomfort.

  • Seek emergency help if symptoms are severe.

Insect bites and stings

Bites and stings can cause a great deal of irritation, especially when the eyelids are affected. They can also lead to eyelid itching.

It’s important to treat this irritation with care, since your eyes and the area around them are so sensitive.

Some minor injuries can be treated at home, but continue to monitor any swelling or additional symptoms and seek medical help when needed. A doctor will help you decide which treatment is needed to prevent an infection or a potentially serious complication.

Recommended treatment: 

  • For minor bites, rinse the area with a saline solution, and treat the pain with a cold compress.

  • For bee, hornet or wasp stings, you may need to seek immediate medical attention to treat the injury and/or remove the stinger.

Stye

An eye stye is a painful, red bump on the eyelid. Styes form when eyelid glands become clogged or when a bacterial infection (typically staphylococci bacteria) happens on the eyelid.

Styes are usually filled with pus. They can cause swelling and discomfort, including itchiness.

Styes may break open after a few days, releasing the pus and reducing swelling. After this, the stye usually starts to fade on its own without any further treatment — other than keeping the area clean.

Recommended treatment: 

  • Keep the affected eyelid clean.

  • Never pop or squeeze pus from the stye.

  • Place a warm washcloth over the affected eye several times a day to help the stye drain on its own.

  • See an eye doctor if the stye worsens or doesn’t go away within a week.

SEE RELATED: How to get rid of a stye

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis (pink eye) can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies and other irritants. Each type of conjunctivitis can cause:

Many cases of conjunctivitis heal on their own, but additional treatment may speed up the recovery time. In severe cases, certain treatment is needed to prevent additional problems.

Recommended treatment: 

  • Use a cold compress and artificial tears to relieve any itching, swelling and other discomfort in mild cases of viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

  • Talk to your doctor about using allergy medication to manage and prevent allergic conjunctivitis.

  • To avoid spreading pink eye, avoid contact with others and don’t share towels or washcloths.

  • An eye doctor may prescribe steroids or antibiotics for bacterial pink eye, which can help relieve red, itchy eyelids.

Blepharitis

Like styes, blepharitis is usually caused by a buildup of bacteria on the eyelid. Allergies and certain skin conditions (such as dandruff and rosacea) can also lead to blepharitis.

This common condition causes irritated, itchy eyelids that can also look dry and crusty at the base of the eyelashes. They can also cause dry eyes.

Depending on severity, some cases of blepharitis can be treated at home, but others may need treatment from an eye doctor.

Recommended treatment: 

  • Keep the eyelid area clean.

  • Use artificial tears to soothe discomfort.

  • Place a warm compress over the affected area to loosen and remove crusty debris.

  • In some cases, an eye doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Finding eyelid itch relief

Determining any underlying cause — and finding the best treatment — can help you find relief for your itchy eyelids.

If the condition doesn’t go away or returns again after a treatment plan (or if the symptoms are severe), visit an eye doctor. They will be able to examine your eyes and help you determine what’s causing your eyelid itch.

READ NEXT: Home remedies for itchy, swollen eyelids

Find Eye Doctor

Schedule an exam

Find Eye Doctor

Gary Heiting, OD

Gary Heiting, OD, is a former senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 30 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear ... Read more