Why Are My Eyes Burning?

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Burning eyes can have many different causes, some of which are serious and require specialized treatment. If the burning persists, it's best to be diagnosed by a healthcare provider.

This article will address the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of burning eyes.

burning eyes
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Burning Eyes Causes

Burning eyes can have several causes. Here are some of the most common causes of burning eyes.


Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids caused by excess bacteria on the eyelashes or clogged oil glands in the eyelashes. It also can make your eyelids itchy and swollen. Blepharitis can affect both eyes or just one eye. Blepharitis is not contagious.

Blepharitis and Other Conditions

Dandruff, rosacea, and oily skin can increase your chances of developing blepharitis, as can allergies that affect your eyelashes.


Dry eyes are caused by not having enough tears or having tears of poor quality. One symptom of dry eyes is burning.

Dry eyes are common, affecting about 20 million people in the United States.

Dry Eye and Other Medical Conditions

Dry eye symptoms are more common if you have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid disease. Environmental factors like wind, smoke, and a dry climate can contribute to dry eyes.


Allergies do not always just affect your nasal passages. Ocular allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, can cause symptoms in the eyes.When an allergy trigger irritates the eyes, they produce histamine to fight against the allergen. This is what leads to allergic symptoms.

Burning is a common symptom associated with eye allergies. Environmental triggers can include pollen, pet dander, dust, and smoke.

Ocular Allergies

About 40% of the North American population is reported to have ocular allergies. Researchers believe that percentage is growing.


Too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can cause photokeratitis. You can think of this as a sunburn on the eyes. You could get this from an activity like watching a solar eclipse or the bright sun reflecting off sand, water, or snow. The UV light from tanning beds also can raise the risk for photokeratitis.

Using good protection for the eyes in bright conditions can help protect against photokeratitis.

Ocular Rosacea

Rosacea is a skin disease that causes redness on the face. However, for some people, it also can cause redness in or around the eyes. This is called ocular rosacea. It is possible to have rosacea symptoms only in the eyes.

How Common Is Rosacea?

More than 14 million people in the United States are living with rosacea.

Pink Eye

Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is a viral infection that causes burning, redness, and discharge. Pink eye easily spreads from person to person. This can happen by sharing personal items like towels and makeup. Frequently washing your hands can help prevent pink eye.


A pterygium is a growth of tissue that can become large enough to cover some of your cornea (the dome-shaped part in the front of the eye). Another name for pterygium is surfer's eye. It's caused by wind and UV exposure.

A pterygium can remain small enough not to cause any symptoms, or it can become large enough to impede your vision.

Burning Eyes Symptoms

In addition to burning eyes, you may have other symptoms. Those symptoms will depend on the exact cause of your burning eyes. Here are some other symptoms you may have along with burning in one or both of your eyes:

If your eye redness is related to a problem like allergic conjunctivitis, you may have symptoms that go beyond just the eyes. This can include a runny nose and sneezing.


You should see a healthcare provider for burning eyes if you also have:

  • Changes in vision
  • Discharge
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light

To find out the cause of burning eyes, an eye doctor, such as a ophthalmologist or optometrist, or other healthcare provider will perform an eye exam. They will examine specific parts of the eye, including your:

  • Cornea
  • Conjunctiva (the clear tissue that covers the white part of your eye)
  • Eyelids
  • Vision

The healthcare provider also may ask you questions to help pinpoint the cause of your burning eyes. This may include questions about:

  • Your exposure to any potential allergens
  • Whether you have other symptoms, including symptoms occurring elsewhere in your body
  • How long you've had symptoms
  • What treatments you've tried so far, if any


Treatment for burning eyes will depend on the cause. Some of the treatments used include eye drops or eye ointments that help with:

  • Allergies
  • Dry eyes
  • Inflammation
  • Infection

Some things you can try at home to help your burning eyes include:

  • Using cool compresses on top of the eyes
  • Using artificial tears four to six times daily
  • Avoiding allergy triggers, if you suspect that allergens are causing your burning eyes
  • Using over-the-counter (OTC) allergy drops for the eyes
  • Washing eyelids with baby shampoo if there are crusts on the eyelids (this would be appropriate for blepharitis)

Do your best to avoid touching the eyes when using your home treatments.


Burning eyes can have several causes, including allergies, dryness, and pink eye. In addition to burning eyes, you may have other symptoms. If you have other symptoms, they might include sensitivity to light, redness in the eyes, or a change in vision.

You should see a healthcare provider for burning in the eyes if you also have pain, discharge from the eyes, or swelling. A healthcare provider may prescribe certain eye drops to help treat the burning and recommend home treatments like using a cold compress over the eyes.

A Word From Verywell

It may feel scary, and quite possibly painful, to have burning eyes. If you're unsure why your eyes are burning, and you have other symptoms, it's a good idea to see an eye doctor or another healthcare provider. There are treatments that can help provide relief.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can COVID-19 cause burning eyes?

    Yes, COVID-19 can cause burning eyes. However, you'll want to look for other symptoms beyond just burning eyes to indicate COVID-19. Most commonly, additional symptoms would include coughing, fever, or headache.

    Learn more: Allergies vs. COVID-19: What Are the Differences?

  • What is the fastest way to get your eyes to stop burning?

    You can try a cool compress, a warm compress, using sunglasses to lower UV exposure and artificial tears. You should see an eye doctor if home treatments to stop burning eyes do not help.

    Learn more: How to Choose Artificial Tears

  • When should I be concerned about burning eyes?

    You should see an eye doctor or other healthcare provider for burning eyes if you have eye pain, sensitivity to light, discharge from the eye, or vision changes.

    Learn more: Causes of Eye Pain and Treatment Options


12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Eye Institute. Blepharitis.

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dry eye disease.

  3. American Optometric Association. Dry eye.

  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What are eye allergies?

  5. Dupuis P, Prokopich CL, Hynes A, et al. A contemporary look at allergic conjunctivitis. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2020;16:5. doi: 10.1186/s13223-020-0403-9.

  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is photokeratitis--including snow blindness?

  7. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ocular rosacea.

  8. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosacea: who gets and causes.

  9. National Eye Institute. Pink eye.

  10. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Pinguecula and pterygium.

  11. Mount Sinai Health. Eye burning--itching and discharge.

  12. Rokohl AC, Loreck N, Wawer Matos PA, et al. More than loss of taste and smell: Burning watering eyes in coronavirus disease 2019. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2020 Nov; 26(11): 1560.e5–1560.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2020.08.018

By Vanessa Caceres
Vanessa Caceres is a nationally published health journalist with over 15 years of experience covering medical topics including eye health, cardiology, and more.