Eye burning - itching and discharge
Eye burning with discharge is burning, itching, or drainage from the eye of any substance other than tears.
Itching - burning eyes; Burning eyes
- Allergies, including seasonal allergies or hay fever
- Infections, bacterial or viral (conjunctivitis or pink eye)
- Chemical irritants (such as chlorine in a swimming pool or makeup)
- Dry eyes
- Irritants in the air (cigarette smoke or smog)
Apply cool compresses to soothe itching.
Apply warm compress to soften crusts if they have formed. Washing the eyelids with baby shampoo on a cotton applicator can also help remove crusts.
Using artificial tears 4 to 6 times a day can be helpful for almost all causes of burning and irritation, especially dry eyes.
If you have allergies, try to avoid the cause (pets, grasses, cosmetics) as much as possible. Your health care provider may give you antihistamine eye drops to help with allergies.
Pink eye or viral conjunctivitis causes a red or bloodshot eye and excessive tearing. It may be highly contagious for the first few days. The infection will run its course in about 10 days. If you suspect pink eye:
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid touching the unaffected eye
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your provider if:
- The discharge is thick, greenish, or resembles pus. (This may be from bacterial conjunctivitis.)
- You have excessive eye pain or sensitivity to light.
- Your vision is decreased.
- You have increased swelling in the eyelids.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will get a medical history and will perform a physical exam.
Questions you may be asked include:
- What does the eye drainage look like?
- When did the problem start?
- Is it in one eye or both eyes?
- Is your vision affected?
- Are you sensitive to light?
- Does anyone else at home or work have a similar problem?
- Do you have any new pets, linens, or carpets, or are you using different laundry soap?
- Do you also have a head cold or sore throat?
- What treatments have you tried so far?
The physical examination may include a check of your:
- Eye motion
- Pupils reaction to light
Depending on the cause of the problem, your health care provider may recommend treatments such as:
- Lubricating eye drops for dry eyes
- Antihistamine eye drops for allergies
- Antiviral drops or ointments for certain viral infections such as herpes
- Antibiotic eye drops for bacterial conjunctivitis
Follow your health care provider's instructions exactly. With treatment, you should gradually improve. You should be back to normal in 1 to 2 weeks unless the problem is a chronic one like dry eyes.
Bhatt U, Lagnado R, Dua HS. Follicular Conjunctivitis. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013: vol 4, chap 7.
Snyder RW, Slade DS. Antibiotic Therapy for Ocular Infection. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013: vol 4, chap 26.
Yanoff M, Cameron D. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 431.
Rubenstein JB, Virasch V. Conjunctivitis: infectious and noninfectious. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 4.6.
Rubenstein JB, Virasch V. Allergic conjunctivitis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 4.7.
Wright JL, Wightman JM. Red and painful eye. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 32.
Reviewed By:Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency
or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional
should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911
for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they
do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.
Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.