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Treating Eczema Around Your Eyes

Posted on August 11, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Amy Isler, RN

Developing eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) around your eyes can be painful, disruptive, and embarrassing. Eye eczema may make you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable — and it can also be dangerous. Eczema around the eyes can lead to secondary eye and vision issues, including infection, conjunctivitis, and other eye complications.

This article covers how to treat and prevent eye eczema, provides information on the different types of eczema, and explores how eczema can lead to eye problems if not treated properly.

Types of Eczema That Affect the Eyes

A few types of eczema can trigger symptoms around the eyes, including seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and allergic conjunctivitis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis, commonly called dandruff, is a chronic condition that is common in infants and in adults between the ages of 30 to 60. It typically involves the scalp, head, face, and middle of the chest, where sebaceous oil glands are located. It can also cause blepharitis, which is irritation and inflammation of the eyelid skin.

Eye symptoms include itchy, scaly, and inflamed skin around the eyelids and eyebrows. People with the following health conditions are at an increased risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea
  • Acne
  • HIV
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • History of a heart attack or stroke
  • Eating disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Alcoholism
  • Depression

A MyEczemaTeam member have shared their experience with blepharitis: “I have had blepharitis. What helped most was to close my eyes and wash my eyelids with baby shampoo or Cetaphil cleanser using a soft washcloth and lukewarm water. Scrub lightly two to three times daily, focusing on gently scrubbing between the lashes.”

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis typically occurs when someone comes into contact with an allergen or irritant, such as makeup, skin care products, sunscreen, or sweat. Many cases of eyelid dermatitis are due to a contact allergen.

Contact dermatitis is a common cause of eczema symptoms around the eyes, which may include burning, blistering, swelling, and itching.

Figuring out what triggers contact dermatitis or an allergic reaction is the first step in controlling symptoms. Eye creams, eye drops, facial moisturizers, and facial cosmetics can be common triggers. Also consider nail polish or other chemicals that your hands touch. Many people rub their eyes during the day, so hands and fingers are an easy means for allergens to reach the eyelids. A dermatologist can help you identify your allergens using a skin or patch test.

A MyEczemaTeam member shared that allergy testing helped them with eyelid eczema. “If you have eczema on your eyelids, go to a dermatologist and get patch testing done,” they said. “It was a game-changer for me.”

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, causes inflammation on the clear outer layer of the eye known as the conjunctiva. It is typically caused by springtime environmental triggers like pollen, blooming flowers and plants, and grasses.

Itchy, watery eyes are the main symptoms of conjunctivitis. Avoiding triggers and using desensitizing eye drops are the best ways to treat and prevent allergic conjunctivitis.

Eye Eczema Treatment Options

The skin on the eyelids and around the eye is thin, delicate, and sensitive. It’s a good idea to talk with a dermatologist before applying any ointments, creams, lotions, or cleansers that could potentially irritate your eyes further.

The first step in treating eczema is to identify, remove, and avoid your triggers. Home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and some prescription medications can also help provide relief and alleviate eczema symptoms.

Home Remedies

Home remedies can help you treat or avoid eye eczema. Some helpful strategies can include:

  • Using a humidifier to protect dry skin
  • Routinely washing your hands to keep bacteria out of your eyes
  • Keeping your nails clean and short to prevent dirt and bacteria from getting into your eyes
  • Washing your face with a fragrance-free cleanser to remove irritants from your eyes and face
  • Using dye-free and fragrance-free moisturizers made for facial skin

Over-the-Counter Medications

Topical anti-itch medication can stop eczema flare-ups around the eyes. Look for an OTC anti-itch medication with a mild corticosteroid ointment. It should contain 0.5 percent to 1 percent hydrocortisone. Anything stronger can lead to a thinning of the skin.

Prescription Medications

If home remedies and OTC medications are not effective, your dermatologist may prescribe a stronger medication. These may include a short-term prescription topical steroid like desonide or topical calcineurin inhibitors to block the inflammation.

Complications of Eye Eczema

Eye eczema can be uncomfortable and affect your quality of life. It can also cause secondary complications that can affect your vision, including conjunctivitis, keratitis, and keratoconus.

Conjunctivitis

People with atopic dermatitis have an increased risk of developing conjunctivitis. Pink eye can be caused by allergens, or by a bacterial or viral infection. Symptoms of pink eye include:

  • Redness in the whites of the eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Watering of the eyes
  • Discharge
  • A crusted eyelid that is difficult to open

Since pink eye is contagious, it’s important to seek treatment right away. For bacterial conjunctivitis, a doctor will usually prescribe antibiotic eye drops.

Keratitis

Keratitis occurs when the cornea of the eye is inflamed or infected. Symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pain
  • Watery eyes
  • Feeling like you have something in your eye

Depending on the cause of the inflamed cornea (bacteria, virus, or a fungus), a doctor will usually prescribe appropriate medicated eye drops.

Keratoconus

Keratoconus occurs when your cornea changes into a cone shape. This is typically caused by extensively rubbing your eyes. The symptoms of keratoconus include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Myopia or nearsightedness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Trouble driving at night
  • Frequent changes in eyeglasses prescription

It is important to visit an eye doctor if you have keratoconus symptoms, as the disease can progress and cause vision problems. For mild to moderate keratoconus, eyeglasses or contact lenses may help correct vision problems. However, if the disease is more severe, a cornea transplant might be necessary.

Consulting with a dermatologist to figure out an effective treatment plan to both prevent and minimize the symptoms of eye eczema is important.

You’re Not Alone

Have you experienced eye eczema? What steps do you take to prevent and treat an eye eczema flare-up? You can find support at MyEczemaTeam, where more than 38,000 people with eczema gather to share advice and talk about their own experiences living with this skin condition.

Share your experience in the comments below or on MyEczemaTeam. Your story may help others.

Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Amy Isler, RN is a registered nurse with over six years of experience as a credentialed school nurse. Learn more about her here.

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