It is true that an itchy eyelid can be both uncomfortable and irritating, but it is rarely a serious health concern. Although a foreign particle is usually temporary and typically goes away just by blinking or a simple eye wash, there is no blinking away from eyelid irritation. It happens when the eye becomes inflamed and this could be due to various reasons such as dryness, seasonal allergies, bacterial infection, eczema, gland dysfunction, etc. In most of the cases, the irritation is either felt at the edge of the eyelid or on the inner surface of it.
The gland in the eyelids provides components to our tear film, which protects the eye structure. Once inflammation sets in, this component is disrupted, causing an inflammatory cascade and leading to several symptoms, like a gritty feeling in the eye, burning sensation, swollen eyelids, redness, excessive blinking, itching and more. Additionally, itchy eyes in young people are further prone to a weakened cornea, causing refractive error and keratoconus (alteration in corneal curvature).
Apart from the visual effects, the quality of life is also hampered, in moderate to severe cases. However, one will only experience the symptoms that coincide with the specific cause of their inflammation, and not all at once. Hence, better management can be provided if the cause is known. While younger people are more likely to have an allergic component, the elderly are more prone to dry eyes and clogged glands (meibomian gland dysfunction). If you are noticing the redness of eyes and irritation prominently after bath, it may be due to the dryness component aggravated by the surrounding steam.
Also, read: Summer eye care: Protect your eyes from the harsh heat wave
Eye drops are one of the most effective ways to cure eyelid irritation. While some of them are designed for allergies and redness, others work like artificial tears for dryness. However, it is important to note that even after using eye drops, if the symptoms persist, get in touch with an eye doctor.
To relieve eyelid irritation associated with stye or clogged glands, applying a warm compress improves circulation and reduces inflammation over a period of time. It helps unclog any clogged oil glands; these are usually a fatty acid component. An easy way to do that is to soak a clean cloth in warm water and apply it on the closed eye. Hold it there for as long as you need to improve the symptom and provide comfort. This should be done for 10 minutes once or twice daily.
In allergic cases, itching is usually severe and is aggravated further in the course. To avoid permanent effects on the cornea, it is important to avoid rubbing eyes in the first place. In mild cases, a splash of cold water may help while in moderate to severe, ice cubes wrapped in a cloth may be applied intermittently to eyelids to decrease the itching.
In case you have clogged pores (Meibomian gland dysfunction), a light vertical lid massage after warm compresses can help express the clogged material. It can be done 2-3 times a day and must be done for a few weeks for the effect to settle in.
It is always necessary to maintain eyelid hygiene. After washing your hands, moisten a washcloth with a mild cleaning solution, like a 50/50 mixed solution of baby shampoo and warm water, and carefully wipe your eyelashes and eyelids. It is recommended to use a new clean swab for each eyelid. This will ensure you don’t spread any bacteria from one eyelid to the other.
Food rich in vitamin A, C, E, and omega-3 fatty acids are advised for ocular health. This includes green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds (like chia and flax seeds), peanuts, and fish.
Contact lenses and eye makeup can be a source of eyelid inflammation and one must avoid them while experiencing eyelid irritation. It is always recommended to wait until your symptoms have cleared up. Also, while using contact lenses, one must maintain proper hygiene. In cases with dry eyes, one should avoid working directly under airflow, keep the environment humid and avoid working in high heat conditions for a long time. The use of protective glasses under such conditions may also help to some extent.
Though most cases of itchy eyes do not last very long, and they might even go away on their own, in case they persist and develop further to cause pain or make your vision worse, visit your doctor. The doctor will identify the specific cause for the eyelid irritation and prescribe a targeted treatment. Another reason to visit your doctor is that prolonged, untreated eyelid inflammation can evolve into a more serious issue such as scarring, loss of eyelashes, or weakened cornea.
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