If your eyes are frequently inflamed, red or itchy, it's important to get to the root cause of the irritation and find a treatment that works. Puffy and itchy eyes are often the result of allergic reactions, the side effects of sleep medications, infections due to the use of expired makeup, hormonal changes or poor ocular health. If over-the-counter medications do not alleviate the eye inflammation quickly, or your discomfort persists, you should see your doctor for an official and accurate diagnosis.
Blepharitis refers to an inflammation of the eyelid due to an accumulation of dandruff on the eyelids, an allergy to eye makeup or an infection. Ocular allergies, such as blepharitis, develop because of our eyes’ constant contact with the environment, bacteria and pollution. "Pink eye" or conjunctivitis is a bacterial infection that affects the transparent mucous membrane inside the eye, but can easily cause puffiness and itchy skin outside of the eyes as well.
There are indoor and outdoor irritants that can affect the area around the eyes and cause eye allergies. Examples of outdoor and airborne allergens may include: grass, tree and weed pollens. Sensitivity to these seasonal allergens may produce allergic conjunctivitis, which is the most common type of eye allergy. Common indoor allergens that may cause eye discomfort include molds, dust mites and pet hair or dander.
Medications to Treat Eye Discomfort
Histamine is a chemical that can irritate the sinuses—which includes the eyes. Available as an over-the-counter or prescription remedy, antihistamines treat eye puffiness and itchiness by blocking the effects of histamine in the body. Some popular brand-name antihistamines include Claritin, Dimetapp and Tavist. Antibiotics can also treat puffy or itchy eye symptoms by treating the underlying problem. If you have a stye -- which occurs when the hair follicles at the base of the eye become infected with staphylococcal bacteria-- you will need to use an antibiotic ointment to treat this type of eye infection.
You can prevent eye irritation by recognizing your triggers. If you have allergies, take note of days when your allergies will be highest. Every morning, check the National Allergy Forecast for Today (see Resources). Avoid visiting friends who have pets. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use several times a day so that you don’t transfer germs and bacteria into your eyes—especially after using public transportation or gym equipment or handling a grocery cart at the supermarket.
Some home remedies that could minimize your symptoms include washing your face with ice-cold water and keeping your sodium intake at a minimum. The American Heart Association suggests limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day, which amounts to one teaspoon of table salt. One can of condensed chicken noodle soup can have as much as 890 mg of sodium, almost half of the recommended daily allowance.
Placing a slice of cucumber on each eye can reduce puffiness, as can a cool, moist tea bag. According to an article on ABC News’ website, the tannins—a natural astringent that can constrict blood vessels—in black and oolong tea can reduce puffy eyes.