Tearing up after one too many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” or someone broke your heart? Sometimes, waterworks are inevitable.
And while you start crying it out, you’ve probably noticed some annoying eye irritation symptoms like burning, stinging, and itchiness.
As long as your symptoms are mild and short-lived, these unpleasant teary effects are pretty normal. If you experience something more severe or prolonged, though, it could indicate an underlying health condition. So, if you feel like your eyes are on fire 🔥, def call a doc.
Here are the deets on why your eyes might burn when you cry.
There are a few reasons your eyes might sting when you cry that signal a typical bodily response.
Things like soap, fragrances, or dust may cause your eye’s lacrimal glands (those glands just below the tail of your brow) to produce reflex tears to try to fight off these invaders. Like true MVPs, these tears also include antibodies that fight bad bacteria.
You might experience some burning when the reflex tears fall. Since your eyes are trying to flush the irritant out, you may also experience prolonged crying.
After your eyes successfully wash away the substance, the burning and stinging should stop.
Chemicals via sweat
Breaking a major sweat to that workout vid? Your eyes might sting from reflex tears from sweating it out.
The perspiration itself doesn’t cause the tears — instead, your sweat may move irritants like moisturizer, makeup, or sunscreen into your eyes. Once the reflex tears get the job done, the burning should take a hike.
Some eye burning might happen due to an underlying medical condition beyond typical irritants.
- a dry, scratchy feeling
Potential causes of the condition include:
Dry eye tends to be more common in older folks since tear production from the lacrimal glands decrease with age.
Blepharitis is a condition that causes red, swollen eyelids that feel irritated and itchy. It can also cause crusty flakes on the eyelashes. Usually bacteria or clogged oil glands are to blame.
When you’re feeling teary-eyed and have blepharitis, you might notice some uncomfy symptoms like:
- eye watering
- crusty lids
- light sensitivity
Just like blepharitis and dry eye, symptoms of eye allergies might come with:
Pink eye symptoms can include:
- redness or pinkness
- burning sensation
- discharge or buildup
Since pink eye *can be* super contagious, def figure out whether it’s your itchy-eye culprit. It’s best treated by a doc.
If your burning eyes are making you want to cry some more, stop right there. These at-home options may lend the relief you need:
- Keeping it cool (or hot): A warm or cool compress placed over your closed lids may soothe your eyes.
- Flush it out: Flushing out the eyes with a saline solution or artificial tear eyedrops may help. Best not to use tap water as it can contain bacteria and other nasties you don’t want in your eyes.
- Clean up: Gently cleaning the area around your eyes with a warm washcloth can lend immediate relief.
- Indoor humidifiers: Dryness in the area can make probs worse. A humidifier can add moisture to the air and lend your eyes some relief.
If those don’t do the trick, you may need some over-the-counter (OTC) assistance from one of the following:
- Antihistamines: OTC antihistamines may work for mild to moderate eye allergies. (Proceed with caution: the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says oral antihistamines could make dry eye worse.)
- Artificial tears: No, these aren’t for when you want someone to feel sorry for you. Artificial tears can be picked up at any drugstore and work best for dry eye, blepharitis, and eye allergies.
- Eye drops: OTC eye drops can also work well for eye allergies.
- Ointments or gels: Sometimes moisturizing the fragile skin around the eyes can help lessen symptoms. Look for ointments or gels specially formulated for the eye area.
Prescription drugs can also help, especially if a medical condition is to blame for your burning peepers.
If your eye probs call for a visit to the doc, they might prescribe:
- Prescription antihistamine: If you have a severe allergic reaction, your doctor can prescribe a prescription antihistamine to treat your eyes.
- Decongestants: Decongestants are sometimes prescribed to reduce redness.
- Steroid eye drops: These will help control inflammation in certain eye conditions.
- Prescription eye drops: Options like cyclosporine (Restasis) can help the eyes produce more tears.
- Allergen immunotherapy: Severe allergies can also be treated with allergy shots.
A little eye burning when you cry from time to time is pretty normal. But if it’s an ongoing prob or causes serious discomfort, talk to a doctor.
Chronic tearing up or burning could mean you have an undiagnosed eye condition. If you already have meds for an underlying eye condition, keeping up on your treatment plan will help prevent issues.
Call your doc if you have new or worsening symptoms that don’t let up with home remedies or OTC treatments.
Burning while crying will often stop when the tears stop flowing. If you experience severe burning, though, or intense burning every time you shed a tear, it could signal an underlying eye condition.
If your symptoms keep on coming despite trying home remedies and OTC options, talk with a healthcare pro ASAP.