When eyes are exposed to allergens such as pollen and animal hair, or environmental irritants such as dust and mold, they can become itchy, red and swollen. This is not a serious condition and can be treated at home. However, eye inflammation can also be caused by exposure to bacteria, or conditions such as conjunctivitis (pinkeye). These disorders are generally accompanied by the secretion of thick fluid from the eye and should be treated by a medical professional. Even if you are only experiencing mild inflammation, if the condition does not improve with home care, seek medical attention immediately.
To treat your itchy eyes at home, begin by adding a few drops of over-the-counter eye medication to each eye. Then lie down and cover your eyes with a warm, wet cloth. Once the warm compress has cooled, replace it with a cold cloth or ice pack. Repeat this treatment every 3 to 4 hours or as needed to bring relief. The cycle of warm and cold should reduce the redness and swelling while diminishing the urge to itch. If the symptoms persist, try covering each eye with a slice of fresh cucumber for approximately 30 minutes. The juice is mildly astringent and can temporarily relieve eye discomfort. If you don’t have any cucumbers on hand, a comparable effect can be created by the application of wet tea bags to the eyes.
Before medical care was readily available, people did their best to take care of their own health using what they had on hand. These days folk remedies have fallen out of fashion. However, if you’d prefer a natural treatment for your sore eyes, feel free to give one of these a try. Remove the skin from an overly ripe apple and cut it into small pieces. Smash the pieces of apple peel with a potato masher until a pulp forms. Close your eyes and spread the apple pulp across your eyelids. Leave the treatment in place for at least 15 minutes and then rinse away with cool water. The pectin from the apple is said to help reduce eye puffiness and soothe irritated tissues. If you don’t have an apple, you can substitute a grated potato and achieve a similar result.
Once your eye inflammation has disappeared, take the following steps to prevent a recurrence. Try to avoid areas of known allergens. If that is not possible, take over-the-counter medication before you go there. If you must touch your eyes, wash your hands both before and after doing so. Do not share eye makeup. If you have any makeup that has been in use for longer than 6 months, throw it out, because the odds of it being contaminated by bacteria are fairly high. Additionally, make sure you change your pillowcases, washcloths and towels regularly and do not share them with other people.
References and ResourcesNatural Help for Eye Inflammation
Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia; Anthony Cavender, Ph.D, 2003