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Eye Irritation

Top Causes of Eye Irritation


Updated June 02, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Eye irritation is a common complaint. If your eyes are red and irritated, you may be wondering whether you should see your eye doctor. The truth is, eye irritation can occur for several reasons. If your eyes are red and irritated, one of the following conditions may be to blame. As always, it is best to seek the opinion of an eye care professional.

1. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Eye Irritation/Pink Eye
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Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a clear mucus membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. The most obvious symptom of pink eye is a red or "pink" colored eye. Inflammation causes small blood vessels in the conjunctiva to darken, resulting in a pink or red tint to the white of the eye.

2. Eye Allergies

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Many people complaining of eye irritation are diagnosed with seasonal eye allergies. Eye allergies sometimes cause significant discomfort, often interrupting daily activities with annoying symptoms.

3. Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome
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If your eyes feel dry, have a stinging sensation, or feel scratchy, you may have dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is a condition that can occur when the tear glands don't produce the correct quantity or quality of tears.

4. Blepharitis


Blepharitis commonly causes red, crusty eyelids. If you have blepharitis, your symptoms are probably most noticeable upon awakening in the morning.

5. Corneal Ulcer

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A corneal ulcer is an erosion or open sore on the surface of the cornea. Corneal ulcers are common in people who wear contact lenses, especially if they wear them overnight.

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