Blog Hero

Why Do My Eyes Burn?

Book Appointment
A senior man sitting outside and holding his glasses in his right hand as he rubs his left eye using his left hand.

What could be causing burning, itching, or soreness in your eyes? Whether it’s a temporary discomfort or a persistent problem, eye irritation can be a frustrating and worrisome issue. It can affect your work and sleep and cause discomfort when your eyes are exposed to light.

There are many different causes of eye burning, from dry eye and pink eye to blepharitis and debris in the eye. 

If your eyes are burning and you can’t determine the cause, visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam to assess your health.

Dry Eye 

When you’re experiencing a burning sensation in your eyes, it could indicate dry eye. This is a common cause of eye irritation, particularly for people who spend a lot of time working on screens or in dry environments.

When your eyes don’t produce enough tears or tears evaporate too quickly, your eyes can become dry, scratchy, and irritated. Most cases of dry eye are caused by meibomian gland dysfunction when the oil-producing glands on the eyelid margins are blocked. When they can’t produce fresh, healthy oils, the tears evaporate too quickly, causing dry eye.

Lifestyle changes can help relieve dry eye, including:

  • Taking frequent breaks from screen time
  • Using a humidifier
  • Avoiding direct air from heaters or fans
  • Using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops

If your dry eye is chronic and persistent, your optometrist may recommend using in-office methods to help relieve dry eye symptoms.

Pink Eye

Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is an infection of the thin layer of tissue that covers the whites of your eyes. Symptoms of pink eye can include redness, itching, discharge, and sensitivity to light. There are a few different causes of pink eye, including:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Allergens
  • Chemicals

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are contagious and can be spread by close contact, poor hand hygiene, and sharing personal products like washcloths or makeup. Your optometrist may recommend antibiotics or antivirals for severe cases, but your body can often fight off the infection independently.

A woman holding a small bottle of eye drops in her right hand and putting them on her right eye.


Blepharitis is a condition that affects the eyelids and can lead to irritation, inflammation, and redness of the eyes. It can result from a bacterial infection, allergies, or other underlying health problems, like rosacea.

Dry eye and blepharitis can be related—one can cause the other, or you can experience them simultaneously. Some common symptoms of blepharitis include:

  • Burning, stinging, or watery eyes
  • Grittiness
  • Red or swollen eyelids
  • Crusty eyelashes
  • Dry eye

Maintaining good eyelid hygiene, using lubricating eye drops, and applying warm compresses can help reduce the buildup of bacteria on the eyelids to help prevent the development of blepharitis.


Sometimes, eye irritation is caused by something as simple as a foreign object or debris in the eye. This could be anything from a piece of an eyelash, dust, or a contact lens that has shifted out of place.

First, you should avoid rubbing your eyes, which can further aggravate the irritation and cause corneal ulcers. Instead, remove your contact lenses if you’re wearing any, and try flushing your eye out with water or saline solution to help remove any debris that may be lodged in your eye.

Sun Exposure

Photokeratitis, or overexposure to the sun, is a condition that occurs when the cornea (the clear front part of the eye) is exposed to too much UV light. This can happen from spending too much time in the sun without proper eye protection or exposure to other sources of UV light, such as welding torches or tanning beds.

Symptoms may include: 

  • Eye pain
  • Redness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Overwatering of the eyes

While the symptoms of photokeratitis are generally temporary, forgetting your sunglasses or protective eyewear too often can cause cumulative damage to your eyes that can lead to problems as you age. You may be at higher risk for developing cataracts or macular degeneration.

Relieve Burning Eyes at the Source

Whether you’re dealing with dry eye, pink eye, blepharitis, debris in the eye, or photokeratitis, eye irritation can be an uncomfortable and frustrating problem. It’s essential to identify the cause of your discomfort and seek proper treatment to alleviate your symptoms.Visit Dr. Bishop & Associates to uncover the cause of your burning eyes. We can begin to treat the condition causing the uncomfortable symptom and offer advice to prevent burning eyes from returning.

Written by Donald Bishop

In addition to his Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo, Dr. Bishop also earned his pharmacological therapeutics certification from Northeastern State University of Oklahoma. He graduated in 1983 and has been practising optometry in Alberta ever since.

More Articles By Donald Bishop
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax