Why Do My Eyes Burn?

A woman pushes her glasses off the bridge of her nose and rubs her eyes. She is seated at an outdoor cafe table working on her laptop

If you’re experiencing stinging, irritated or burning eyes, it’s imperative to identify the cause and find relief. Often, treatment can be as simple as over-the-counter, preservative-free eyedrops, but in some cases, ongoing medical treatment is needed. An overview of problems and causes should help you decide whether you need treatment from your eye care professional.

Burning Eyes and Contact Lenses

While they are considered safe, contact lenses can sometimes lead to burning eyes. Wearing contact lenses longer than recommended may cause dry, burning eyes. Your eyes may be sensitive to ingredients in certain brands of contact lenses or contact solutions, which can result in burning. On high-allergy, windy or smoggy days, irritants can collect on contacts and increase the risk of suffering from burning eyes.

Burning Eyes and Environmental Issues

Certain environmental triggers can be responsible for making your eyes burn. While these may be out of your control, it’s important to be aware of potential irritants. Some examples include:

  • Strong winds.
  • High pollen count.
  • Smog.
  • Smoke.
  • Mold.
  • Pet dander.
  • Allergies.

Burning Eyes and Common Chemicals

Every day, you are exposed to common chemicals that may cause your eyes to burn. Examples are:

  • Soaps.
  • Shampoo.
  • Make-up.
  • Skin-care products.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Cleaning products.
  • Swimming pool chemicals.

Self-Help Remedies

In certain cases, you may be able to treat burning eyes at home. If chemicals from common products like sunscreen or soap get in your eyes, read the manufacturer’s label for instructions. Most will recommend you simply rinse your eyes out with clean water. If possible, use bottled water instead of tap water for this. Tap water often has bacteria that may cause infections.

If your burning eyes are caused by allergies or other environmental factors, try over-the-counter, preservative-free eye drops. Your doctor may prescribe specific eye drops for your allergy-related burning eyes. In addition to eye drops, you can apply a warm compress over closed eyes for a few minutes several times a day. 

You can help to minimize contact lens problems by following proper contact care and wearing contacts only as directed. When eyes burn after putting in contact lenses, take them out and try wearing glasses instead. If the irritation doesn’t improve or persists, seek medical attention. Your eye doctor may need to change your prescription or check for eye-related medical issues.

When to See A Doctor

When burning eyes are accompanied by other symptoms, like extra sensitivity to light, double or blurred vision, eye discharge, or headaches, you need to contact your eye doctor. Even without additional symptoms, contact your doctor if the discomfort of burning eyes continues for more than just a few days.

Burning eyes may be a sign of serious medical conditions. Some examples include:

  • Dry eye syndrome.
  • Eye infection.
  • Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation).
  • Ocular rosacea, which is an eye condition related to a skin condition.
  • Uveitis, iritis, and general eye inflammation.
  • Orbital cellulitis.

At Florida Eye Specialists, we can diagnose the cause of your burning eyes and provide appropriate treatment to relieve your discomfort. You can schedule an eye appointment with Florida Eye Specialists at one of our eight convenient locations found throughout Jacksonville, Saint Augustine, and Palatka.