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Why do my eyes burn?

By John Cason, MD

Do your eyes burn? Are they red? Does the vision get blurry only to get better after heavy blinking or eye rubbing? Do your eyes frequently tear? There are many reasons why someone’s eyes would burn and tear. The most common reason is blepharitis. Thankfully, the problem is easy to understand and to treat.

Next to your eyelashes there are tiny oil glands that secrete a thin protective layer over your tear film to prevent it from drying too quickly. This oily layer is very helpful most of the time but when these oil glands get clogged they can collect bacteria. Bacteria that grow uncontrolled can secrete toxins and promote inflammation that suppresses the eye’s ability to create healthy tears. The eyelids are chronically inflamed and the condition is described by your eye doctor as blepharitis. As a result, the eyes are chronically dry which makes them burn and tear (as a reflex to the dryness).

Frequently, the eyes ache and can mimic an ocular headache. The eyes can feel “tired.” The vision is blurry because without a healthy tear layer the ocular surface is irregular. As an experiment, try holding your eyes open for 30 seconds and you’ll simulate the condition…your eyes will burn, the vision will blur, and your eyes will reflexively tear.

What can you do about this common malady? Warm a washcloth under the tap and massage your eyelids while closed for approximately five minutes before and after bedtime. During severe episodes you can increase the frequency to 4-6 times daily. These heat-massages melt the clogged oils in the oil glands and clear out the bacteria that are proliferating. The tear film will improve and the inflammation will subside. Use artificial tears to wet your eyes when they are dry or blurry. Try to avoid the drops that claim to “get the red out” because they frequently have preservatives and chemicals that will irritate your eyes over time.

If you try this therapy at home without any success, visit your eye doctor at Eye Associates of Southern California. After a thorough eye examination, your doctor can tell you the specific cause of your symptoms and offer more specific treatment to help. Call our friendly staff at 951-303-6111 for an appointment or click here and someone will contact you.


Make an appointment online or call us (at 951-303-6111) for your personal consultation with our Eye Physicians, Surgeons, and Doctors at Eye Associates of Southern California. New patient forms.


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