How Can Eczema Affect the Eyes?

Eczema can make eyes puffy and itchy and increase risk for diseases.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, itchy skin. It appears most commonly on knees and elbows, although it can also appear on the face. People with eczema on the face often experience eczema on the eyelids, also known as atopic dermatitis.

The skin on the eyelids is thin and prone to infection, which increases the risk of rashes around the eyes or eczema eyes. Also, people with eczema are at higher risk of other eye conditions, including conjunctivitis and an inflamed cornea. 

Continue reading to learn more about eczema eyes, including causes and prevention. 

A person rubbing their eyes.
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What Does Eczema Around the Eyes Look Like?

Eczema around the eyes is most common on the eyelids. The eyelid skin is particularly thin and fragile, making it prone to rash, especially in the creases of the eyes. Eczema eyes have an appearance that changes from person to person, but it can include:

  • Puffy or swollen eyes, particularly on the lids
  • Red skin around the eyes
  • Flakes or scales 

What Does Eczema Around the Eyes Feel Like?

For many people, eczema around the eyes is very itchy. You may feel like your eyes are irritated, or like there is something inside that you need to remove or rub away.

Since people with eczema on their eyes are at higher risk for infection and eye disease, it’s important to monitor yourself for any new sensations that could indicate a problem. These include:

  • Sensitivity to light, which could indicate conjunctivitis or an inflamed cornea 
  • Sticky, crusty eyes, which are a sign of conjunctivitis 
  • Painful eyes
  • Feeling as if there’s something gritty, a sign of an inflamed cornea

What Causes Eczema Around the Eyes?

Allergies or environmental sensitivities can cause eczema around the eyes. Other causes and triggers of eczema, like stress, food, and hormonal changes, can also play a role. 

Allergic eczema 

Any chemicals, foods, or allergens can trigger eye eczema in people with sensitive skin. This is also known as contact dermatitis. Unfortunately, because many allergens can cause this type of eczema, it’s often hard to identify what is triggering it. 

Broadly, the types of allergens that can cause allergic eczema are classified by how they get onto the eyelids:

  • Direct contact from items like make-up, shampoo, hair dye, or eye drops
  • Airborne contaminants like smoke, fragrances, or dust
  • Hand contact that brings contaminants like nail polish, creams, or ointment to the eyes
  • Third-party contact, where you come into contact with allergens from your partner, child, or other people you have close contact with

Atopic eczema

Sometimes eczema on the eyelids is caused by hypersensitivity to the environment. This is known as atopic eczema, which is a chronic form of the condition. People with atopic eczema can experience symptoms on their eyes without a clear trigger. 

Eczema and Eye Diseases

Having eczema around your eyes can increase your risk for other eye diseases like conjunctivitis (pink eye). Because of that, you might also notice redness or pinkness in the eye, watery eyes or mucus around the eyes. People who have eczema are at higher risk for some eye diseases, including:

  • Conjunctivitis: Bacterial infection in the eye
  • Inflamed cornea: This can occur when the eye becomes infected or swollen
  • Keratoconus: A condition where the cornea changes shape.

If you experience any changes to your vision, increased sensitivity to light, or new sensations in your eyes, it’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider 

Preventing Eye Diseases

Early intervention is key to preventing vision loss from conditions like an inflamed cornea or keratonconus. People who have eczema should see an ophthalmologist regularly. Ask them to look particularly closely at the shape of your cornea to ensure that it’s not undergoing any changes. 

Let your healthcare provider know you have eczema, and consider seeking an ophthalmologist who is experienced in treating people who have eczema. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Working closely with a dermatologist is essential for managing and treating eczema. Since the skin around the eyelids is especially sensitive, it’s helpful to talk to your healthcare provider about how to treat eczema around the eyes. 

In addition, you should see your healthcare provider any time you have an eye infection lasting more than a few days.

Summary

Eczema often appears on the knees and elbows, but it can also happen on the face, including the eyelid. Eczema can make your eyes look red and inflamed and leave them feeling very itchy or irritated. People with eczema are also at increased risk for eye diseases and infections, including conjunctivitis, inflamed cornea, and cornea shape changes. Because of that, people with eczema need to have regular eye exams.

A Word From Verywell 

Living with eczema can be challenging, especially when it appears on your face and affects your appearance. Working with healthcare providers, including dermatologists and ophthalmologists can help you manage day-to-day symptoms and prevent more serious side effects like permanent vision changes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you get rid of eczema near the eyes naturally?

    Treating eczema naturally can be tricky. Work to identify your triggers by journaling when you experience flare ups. Consider eliminating products like makeup or hair dye and reintroducing them one by one to see if any of them is causing your eczema. Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend additional treatments. 

  • What causes eczema around the eyes?

    Eczema around the eyes is often caused by allergens and irritants. Unfortunately, almost anything can be a trigger, from foods to fragrances and environmental allergens. Because of that, it’s often tricky to find the cause of eczema around the eyes.

  • How long does it take for eyelid eczema to go away?

    Eczema is often characterized by flare-ups and remissions. Your flare-up may last for weeks or months. Talking to your healthcare provider about treatments for eczema may shorten your flares. 

4 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 Eczema Foundation. Eczema around the eyes.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Adults with eczema should watch for eye problems.

  3. Eczema Foundation. Eczema on the eyes.

  4. Thomsen SF. Atopic dermatitis: natural history, diagnosis, and treatmentISRN Allergy. 2014;2014:354250. doi:10.1155/2014/354250

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.