Why Do My Eyes Burn?

Your eyes are vital organs and require proper care and attention to maintain good health. If you experience a burning sensation in your eyes, it could be due to various reasons. Burning eyes can be a symptom of dry eyes, blepharitis, contact lens irritation, an eye infection, allergies, or digital eye strain. 

Burning eyes are irritating, and if the cause is serious, it can begin to impact the quality of your vision. Visit your optometrist if you’re experiencing chronic or persistent burning eyes. An eye exam can help identify the underlying cause so you can treat the symptom at the source.

What Causes a Burning Sensation in Your Eyes?

A burning feeling in your eyes can range from mild to intense, depending on the reason and its severity.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are a common cause of eye burning. When your eyes don’t produce enough tears or the quality of the tears is poor, it can cause irritation and a burning sensation. Other symptoms of dry eyes may include:

  • Redness
  • Grittiness
  • A foreign body sensation in your eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Overwatering of the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light


When bacteria build up on the eyelids, it can cause blepharitis, inflammation of the eyelids. The irritation can cause burning in the eyes and lead to potential bacterial infection. It’s closely related to meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye because the bacteria can block the meibomian gland’s oil production. Blepharitis has many symptoms in common with dry eye, but other common symptoms can include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Swollen or red eyelids
  • Tears with bubbles
  • Crusty eyelids

Blepharitis can develop into styes, chalazion, or corneal damage, so it’s important to visit your optometrist to address its symptoms.

Contact Lens Irritation

Wearing contact lenses can make vision correction easier, but it can leave your eyes vulnerable to irritation. Overwearing your contact lenses for extended periods can cause eye burning. The lenses may dry out your eyes, irritate your cornea, or create a bacterial infection.

Improperly fitted contact lenses, damaged or torn lenses, and protein deposits can irritate the cornea and cause it to swell. If you experience eye burning while wearing contact lenses, remove them immediately and switch to glasses until you visit your optometrist for an updated contact lens exam.


Just like your respiratory system, your eyes can also develop infections. Eye infections can cause intense eye burning depending on the type of infection. Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections require different treatment methods, but visiting your optometrist is the first step to healing your eyes.

Some of the most common eye infections include:

Most eye infections share many common symptoms, such as:

  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Eye pain
  • Excessive watering of the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling like something is in your eye

External Factors That Can Affect Your Eyes


If you have allergies, the irritants can make your eyes burn and itch. The symptoms can be caused by different allergens such as pollen, pet dander, or dust mites.

Other common allergy symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Pain around the eyes
  • Itching of the nose, or throat
  • Watery, swollen, or red eyes

Over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and eye drops can help to alleviate allergy symptoms. However, if your symptoms are severe, you should consult an optometrist.

Digital Eye Strain

If you spend long hours staring at screens, reading, or doing close work, you may experience eye strain. While many experience digital eye strain while working long days at the computer or scrolling too long on social media, the symptoms can cause discomfort in your whole body.

Eye strain can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Burning eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back strain

To reduce the discomfort, take frequent breaks from close work, adjust your screen brightness and contrast, and use good lighting in your environment.

How to Soothe Burning Eyes

Use Eye Drops

Artificial tears or eye drops can provide instant relief from burning eyes and improve overall eye comfort. Eye drops can help soothe and lubricate the ocular surface to reduce inflammation and dryness. Some eye drops contain anti-allergen and anti-inflammatory agents that can alleviate specific symptoms of burning eyes, such as redness, itching, and stinging sensation.

Eye drops are available with or without preservatives. Preservatives help eye drops last longer, but overusing eye drops can cause irritation. Preservative-free eye drops are single-use and have a short shelf life, but they can be a better choice if you’re using eye drops more than 4 times per day.

Ask for a recommendation from your eye doctor before trying eye drops so you use the right type to soothe your symptoms.

Reduce Screen Time

Using a computer or digital device for prolonged periods can cause eye strain and dryness that lead to burning eyes. To minimize eye fatigue and discomfort, try taking frequent breaks from your screen time every 20 minutes or so. Reducing screen time after work or school can offer relief from your symptoms and allows your eyes to rest.

Close work like sewing, drawing, woodworking, or knitting can also strain the eyes over prolonged periods. If you’re prone to getting absorbed in a hobby that requires close focus, make time for breaks to go outside or switch tasks.

Cool Compresses

To counteract the burning sensation, a cool compress is a simple home remedy to try. It soothes irritation and constricts blood vessels to reduce any swelling. While an ice-cold compress sounds soothing, it’s important to avoid direct contact with the skin and only use a compress for up to 15 minutes at a time to avoid frostbite. 

Practice Good Hygiene

One of the most straightforward ways to prevent burning eyes is by practicing good hygiene habits like washing your hands frequently, which can prevent the spread of germs that cause eye infections and other eye-related issues.

If you wear contact lenses, be mindful of the cleaning and replacement routine. It’s essential to clean and disinfect your lenses regularly to help prevent bacteria buildup that can contribute to eye irritation and infection. Consult your optometrist for the appropriate cleaning regimen and best practices.

A woman holds a small bottle of eye drops in her left hand and puts them in her right eye by using her right index finger to pull her eyelid down.

Protect Your Eyes from Irritants

Exposure to environmental irritants like dust, smoke, and chemicals can trigger eye irritation and a burning sensation. Take precautions by wearing protective goggles or eyewear when exposed to harsh elements. Also, avoiding rubbing or touching your eyes with unwashed hands is a good idea, as it can transfer bacteria and irritants to your eyes.

If you’re experiencing burning eyes related to allergies, consider taking antihistamines or other allergy medications to ease symptoms and avoid known irritants that trigger your symptoms.

Consult Your Optometrist

If your burning eyes persist or worsen despite trying at-home remedies, it’s crucial to consult an optometrist. Chronic burning eyes can indicate underlying conditions, such as severe dry eye syndrome, allergies, or infection, requiring professional intervention.

Your optometrist can perform a comprehensive eye exam to determine the root cause of your burning eyes and develop a personalized treatment plan that fits your condition and needs.

Prioritize Your Eye Care

Eye irritation from burning sensations, strain, dry eyes, or infections can disrupt your life. Your eyes should feel comfortable, and your optometrist can recommend treatment options to help you find relief.

If you’re experiencing chronic or severe burning eyes or are due for your next eye exam, schedule an appointment at Spectrum Eye Care. We’re here to help you keep your eyes healthy and bright.