Sore eyes are an unpleasant feeling in or around one or both eyes where the eyes may be gritty, tender or tired and it may be caused by different types of stimuli, including airborne irritants and environmental factors, as well as underlying conditions. Sore eyes can be a common problem caused by various factors, including allergies, eye strain, dry eyes and infections yet sore eyes can be treated but sometimes it can lead to other complications.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Sandeep Buttan, Technical Lead at Eye Health and Health System Strengthening at Sightsavers India, shared, “Irritated eyes can be caused by various factors, such as air and dust pollution, prolonged exposure to digital screens, seasonal allergies, dry eyes, and certain eye drops or medications. While this condition may not affect vision, it can significantly impact daily activities and quality of life, causing watering, itching, frequent blinking, light aversion, and difficulty in working on a computer or driving. Therefore, it is crucial to take good care of your eyes to avoid or manage irritated eyes.”
According to him, one of the main causes of irritated eyes is air and dust pollution, which has become a significant concern in most cities. He said, “People living in polluted areas are at a higher risk of developing irritated eyes due to the harmful pollutants in the air. Reducing exposure to dry and dusty environments and wearing protective eyeglasses can help alleviate symptoms. Prolonged exposure to digital screens is another significant cause of irritated eyes. People who work for extended hours on computers or other display screens are at a higher risk of developing digital eye strain, which causes symptoms such as eye fatigue, dry eyes, headaches, and blurred vision. To manage this, it is recommended to maintain a proper distance from the screen, take frequent breaks, consciously blink, and wear anti-glare glasses.”
Highlighting that seasonal allergies can also cause irritated eyes, leading to watering, itching and light sensitivity, Dr Sandeep Buttan advised, “Avoiding the allergen, staying hydrated, consuming fresh fruits, and washing eyes and face with clean water can help alleviate symptoms. However, if the symptoms persist, it is best to consult an eye care provider to get a complete assessment and prescription for suitable tear substitutes and anti-allergen medications. Dry eye is a broad term used to denote eye problems associated with impaired tear production in the eyes, either reduced quantity or altered composition. This condition is prevalent in people who use contact lenses, work outdoors, have had LASIK surgery, are prone to other allergies, or use certain eye drops or medications. Using suitable tear substitutes and avoiding exposure to artificial heating and cooling can help alleviate symptoms.”
He asserted, “It is essential to note that regular eye health check-ups are crucial for maintaining good eye health, even when things seem fine. This helps detect any underlying eye problems early and prevents potential eye conditions from worsening. Refrain from self-medication or harmful home remedies and avoid rubbing the eyes as this can worsen the symptoms. In summary, taking good care of your eyes is essential to avoid or managing irritated eyes. Avoiding the allergen, reducing exposure to dry and dusty environments, wearing protective eyeglasses, using digital screens wisely, staying hydrated, consuming fresh fruits, and washing eyes and face with clean water can help alleviate symptoms. It is crucial to consult an eye care provider for a complete assessment and prescription of suitable tear substitutes and/or anti-allergen medications. Lastly, regular eye health check-ups are crucial for maintaining good eye health.”
Dr Uma Malliah, Senior Consultant, Opthalmology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in New Delhi, recommended the following tips to help alleviate sore eyes –
- Rest your eyes: One of the main causes of sore eyes is eye strain. If you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen or any other digital device, take regular breaks to rest your eyes. This can help reduce eye strain and prevent soreness.
- Apply a warm compress: Placing a warm, damp cloth over your closed eyes can help soothe soreness and reduce inflammation. This can also be helpful if you have dry eyes, as it can help stimulate tear production.
- Use eye drops: If your eyes are dry, using eye drops can help lubricate them and reduce soreness. There are many over-the-counter eye drops available that can help relieve dry eyes. However, if your eyes are sore due to an infection, you should see a doctor before using eye drops.
- Avoid irritants: If you have allergies, certain substances can irritate your eyes and make them sore. Try to avoid allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet dander. If you must be in contact with these substances, wear protective eyewear such as goggles.
- Practice good hygiene: If you have an eye infection, it’s important to practice good hygiene to prevent it from spreading. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your eyes. Also, avoid sharing towels or other personal items that could spread the infection.
- Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can cause eye strain and make your eyes sore. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night to help reduce eye strain and promote healthy eyes.
- Visit your doctor: If your eyes are sore for an extended period of time, or if you experience other symptoms such as redness, discharge, or vision changes, see your doctor.
Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Soumya Sharma, Senior Consultant at Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals, suggested how to take care of irritated eyes:
1. Use over-the-counter artificial tears. These eye drops relieve irritation and remove allergens from the eyes. Use up to four times daily. If you use artificial tears more often, you should buy preservative-free artificial tears.
2. Use over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops, especially if you’re prone to seasonal allergies. These drops help relieve itching.
3. Do simple eye exercises every day to maintain muscle strength in and around your eyes. Exercising them can also relieve stress.
4. Place a cold compress or washcloth over closed eyes several times a day.
5. Avoid triggers or irritants such as smoke, pollen, dust, chlorine or pet dander. If you don’t know what can irritate your eyes, consult an allergist. They can test you to find out what you are allergic to.
6. Your eyes need to be hydrated and this can be easily achieved by drinking plenty of water. In summer, water not only helps refresh your body, but also energizes it. It also improves your immune system.
7. Wash your hands frequently. Do not touch your eyes unless you have just washed your hands. Also, try to use clean sheets and towels every day.
Meanwhile, in some cases, sore eyes may occur with symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that requires immediate evaluation. If eye-related symptoms do not improve after a few weeks, contact your eye doctor.
In conclusion, sore eyes can be a common problem but there are many ways to alleviate the discomfort. Resting your eyes, using warm compresses, using eye drops, avoiding irritants, practicing good hygiene, getting enough sleep and seeing your doctor when necessary can all help promote healthy eyes and reduce soreness.