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What Are the Causes of Itching Eyelids?

author image Dr. Tina M. St. John
Tina M. St. John runs a health communications and consulting firm. She is also an author and editor, and was formerly a senior medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. St. John holds an M.D. from Emory University School of Medicine.
What Are the Causes of Itching Eyelids?
A young woman is applying eye makeup. Photo Credit Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images


Eyelid itching can be an intensely aggravating and potentially vision-endangering symptom. Many disorders can cause eyelid itching, including genetic and acquired skin conditions, allergies and infections. Some causes of eyelid itching are limited disorders that can be resolved with treatment. Other causes of this condition prove chronic, requiring ongoing treatment to control the underlying disorder and minimize symptoms.

Atopic Dermatitis

Eyelid involvement may occur in people with atopic dermatitis, a condition characterized by intense itching due to increased skin reactivity to substances in the environment. Atopic dermatitis of the eyelids typically causes inflammation of the outer and inner eyelids. The itching may be so intense that the front of the eye, or the cornea, becomes deformed due to persistent rubbing of the eyes. Itching is typically accompanied by excessive tearing, burning and eye discharge.

Allergic Dermatitis

Allergies remain a common cause of eyelid inflammation and itching. Possible triggering substances include pet dander, dust, mold, pollen, perfumes, makeup and cosmetic applicators, artificial nails, nail polish, metals and antibiotic ointments or eye drops. Various preservatives found in cosmetics, shampoos, hair-care products, lotions and lubricating eye drops can also precipitate eye allergy symptoms. Avoiding contact with substances that trigger eye allergies is an important aspect of management of the disorder. Antihistamine and anti-inflammatory eye drops may prove useful in relieving the symptoms of eye allergies.


Chronic inflammation of the eyelids, or blepharitis, is a frequent cause of eyelid itching. Causes of blepharitis include seborrhea, staphylococcal infection and abnormal function of the oil glands of the eyelids. In addition to eyelid itching, symptoms of blepharitis include eye redness and scratchiness, excessive tearing and burning. Blepharitis is a chronic condition, requiring long-term management. Warm compresses and eyelid scrubs are cornerstones of treatment for blepharitis. Oral or topical antibiotics may also be used to control this disorder.

Ocular Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic disorder characterized by redness and swelling of the skin. The face is the primary site for rosacea, but the ears, scalp, neck, back and chest may also be involved. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that approximately half of those with rosacea have eye involvement, known as ocular rosacea. Symptoms may include itching, burning, excessive tearing, redness, scratchiness and eye discharge. The surface of the eye itself may be involved with ocular rosacea. Treatment usually involves warm compresses, eyelid scrubs and extended treatment with oral antibiotics.

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