Are Your Eyes Red, Stinging, and Watering Constantly? This Could Be Why

If your eyes have been extra red and itchy or they’ve started burning, watering, stinging, or any other unpleasant thing a lot more these days, you are not alone. This has become quite a common complaint among my friends and coworkers—and it’s something this allergy-suffering, glasses-wearing, screen-obsessed editor has experienced way too much lately.

So I turned to the experts to find out what might be making our eyes red and itchy, why it’s happening now, and what we can do to deal with it. Here are the most likely culprits:

1. Allergies

“We’re in the prime of allergy season,” Tania Elliot, M.D., allergist and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, tells SELF. So it’s not surprising that people would be experiencing some intense allergy symptoms right now, including eye symptoms. Those generally include redness, itchiness, watering, and dark circles around the eyes, Elliot says. In some cases, you might also experience some burning.

But outdoor pollen allergies aren’t the only problem, Lora Glass, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and director of medical student education in ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SELF. Because many of us are spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, indoor allergens may become more of a problem, including pet dander and dust.

Maybe you have a low-grade allergy to your pet but were at work most of the time so it didn’t bother you until now, for instance. Or maybe you used to have help cleaning your home, but now it’s up to you and it’s been hard to keep up. In either case, you could be dealing with more-intense allergen exposure than pre-coronavirus.

If your allergies are causing your eye issues, Elliot suggests using antihistamine eye drops, like Alaway drops ($ 11, Amazon). Also, when you’re outside, make sure to wear sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting in your eyes or getting trapped in your eyelashes. If your issue is indoor allergies, though, Glass also recommends investing in a home air filter.

2. Contact lenses

Improper contact lens hygiene is another major source of eye irritation, Glass says. When you wear your contacts for too long or accidentally fall asleep in them, they can actually deprive your corneas of oxygen, she explains. That causes the eyes to become irritated and red.

But even if you were absolutely stellar at using contacts properly pre-coronavirus, working from home might make it easier for you to forget or to push the limits of your daily contact usage, Glass says.

If that sounds like you, the first step to tackling your eye issues is to get back into your good contact lens habits (or to develop them for the first time). That means giving your eyes a break from contacts for at least a few hours a day, not sleeping in them, washing your hands before touching your lenses, and changing your lenses as often as you’re instructed.

In addition to that, it’s a good idea to use over-the-counter rewetting drops (artificial tears) to soothe those dry eye symptoms, Glass says. For longer lasting relief, you can try a gel format.

3. Staring at screens for 900 hours a day

Looking at screens for hours and hours during the day can lead to eye dryness, redness, and irritation. That’s because when you’re staring at a screen, you actually slow your rate of blinking, Glass explains. That causes your eyes to dry out faster, which leads to those other symptoms, like burning, stinging, and watering.

If you work on a computer and are how working from home, you’re likely using it for the same amount of time you were before. But it’s now a lot easier to go from screen to screen to screen without a natural break. For instance, working in the office, I might have had meetings, lunch breaks, and my commute to give my eyes a break. But now I sometimes find myself waking up and looking at my phone, then reading a book on my tablet while I have coffee, working on my laptop for too many hours, and ending the day with some Animal Crossing. Not great!

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