Eye Itching and Drainage

Eye burning with discharge is burning, itching, or drainage from the eye of any substance other than tears. Sometimes burning and itching eyes are due to environmental pollutants. If secondhand cigarette smoke is annoying, say so.

Common causes

  • Allergies, including seasonal allergies or hay fever
  • Bacterial infections
  • Chemical irritants (such as chlorine in a swimming pool or makeup)
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye
  • Dry eyes
  • Irritants in the air (cigarette smoke or smog)

Home care

Apply cool compresses to soothe itching.

If the eyelids have crusts, gently soften them with warm compresses. Gently washing the eyelids with baby shampoo on a cotton applicator can help remove crusts.

Artificial tears used four to six times a day can also relieve symptoms. Avoid other types of eye drops because they will can make symptoms worse.
Itching and burning due to allergy or chemicals can be very uncomfortable. Try to determine the cause of the allergy, such as a pet, seasonal pollen, or irritating cosmetics.

Refrigerated artificial tears can be very soothing. Antihistamine drops, available from your health care provider, can be helpful.

Pink eye or viral conjunctivitis causes a red or bloodshot eye and excessive tearing. If you suspect pink eye, remember to wash your hands often, and avoid touching the unaffected eye. The infection will run its course in about 10 days.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is not common, but if you have eye discharge that is white, yellow, or greenish, contact your health care provider.

When to call your health care provider

Contact your health care provider if:

  • The discharge is thick, greenish, or resembles pus
  • You have excessive eye pain or sensitivity to light
  • Your vision is decreased

Treatment

Your health care provider may prescribe antihistamines in the form of eye drops or ointments. Bacterial conjunctivitis will be treated with antibiotic eye drops. Cortisone-like eye ointments are usually avoided, because they can cause long-term problems.

After seeing your health care provider

If your symptoms do not improve or they worsen in one to two weeks, contact your health care professional. You might need additional treatments.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine: Eye burning - itching and discharge