There can be many reasons for an eye to be burning and feel like there is a foreign-body sensation. This can range from a viral conjunctivitis (usually follows an upper respiratory infection or exposure to someone with a cold or red eye
) and can cause irritation
, mattering, tearing
, burning or sensitivity to light and these symptoms usually then spread to the other eye. Allergic conjunctivitis
is usually distinguished by significant itching, but this can be associated with watering.
I highly suspect that you have dry eyes
with inflammation. If there is tearing associated with this, it is difficult to understand why the eyes may be dry when they tear: the tearing is a reflex in response to dry eyes that is not sufficient to hydrate the eyes as they need to.
When there is inflammation in the eyes and/or eyelids, this is usually from what's called blepharitis
, which is inflammation of the eyelids and glands in the eyelids. The eyelids are key players in making a layer of tears that coats the surface of your eyes called a tear film
. The inflammation that is blepharitis keeps the eyelids from making that tear film as healthy as it needs to be and so the eyes dry out. Also because there is inflammation in the tears because of the blepharitis, there are bacteria pooling in your tear film. Often times an antibiotic +/- steroid drop or ointment is used to help kill the bacteria. This therapy is usually only used in a pulse fashion, to start out the treatment and then only used when there are flare-ups, not on a regular basis for most people. However, treating this with a steroid drop for a few days is not enough to treat this entire problem, it is usually just an adjunctive measure combined with the baseline treatment as I state below.
The baseline treatment for blepharitis and what I think you should start doing, is everyday in the morning you should do two things: 1. hot compresses and 2. eyelid scrubs. You should do hot compresses for 5-10 minutes over each eye at the same time. It should be as hot as you can tolerate without burning your skin, massaging the eyelids while they are on there. Then, use either commercially available preparations (Sterilid or Ocusoft) or a dilute baby shampoo solution to scrub your eyelashes on all 4 eyelids. The commercially available preparations are both over-the-counter eyelash scrubbing treatments. These cost more money but are quicker to use. Otherwise, the cheaper alternative is the dilute baby shampoo (4-5 drops Johnson's shampoo in 1/4 cup warm water): you will take the wipe (or dip a qtip in the dilute baby shampoo solution) and use that to scrub right on the eyelashes of each eyelid for 15 seconds. That will take 60 seconds when done to all 4 eyelids. The scrubbing is done right on the eyelid margin, where the eyelashes come out. After that, just splash some water on the eyes and you're done.
It does take about 3-4 weeks of doing this consistently every day before it really kicks in, so don't stop it thinking it's not working; often times combining this with the topical steroid helps to bring relief sooner. Also the eyes are still significantly dry during this 3-4 weeks so use artificial tears one drop in each eye, 4x/day. After 4 weeks you should be able to start tapering off of the tears to as you need them.
Just doing the artificial tears, hot compresses and eyelid scrubs alone would likely start to help you after three or 4 weeks--but remember it could take this long of doing it everyday before you see a significant effect, so don't stop it thinking it's not working. Also you may need an antibiotic/steroid combination medicine to help augment the therapy. If after 3 weeks of diligent treatment you are better, but not completely normal, you may need to see your eye doctor to assess for other causes of dry eyes, as blepharitis is only one cause of dry eye. Many times dry eye patients have more than one cause of dry eyes (Restasis is an excellent treatment for those people with dry eyes because they don't make enough of their own tears). Each cause of dry eyes needs to be appropriately treated for your symptoms to resolve.
If, after 2-3 weeks of doing this you see no improvement in your symptoms then I would suggest seeing your eye doctor as there may be inflammation that needs a steroid or antibiotic treatment to resolve.
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My opinion is solely informative and does not constitute a formal medical opinion or recommendation. For a formal medical opinion and/or recommendation you must see an eye doctor.