burning eyes


Digital Eyestrain


A 2016 report by the Vision Council found that 60% of Americans use digital devices for 5 or more hours each day. 70% of Americans use 2 or more devices at a time.
The term Digital Eyestrain has replaced the term Computer Vision Syndrome due to the increase in types of digital devices. Digital Eyestrain is defined as “physical discomfort of one’s eyes after spending periods of time throughout the day in front of a digital device, such as a computer or smartphone.”

The list of Digital Eyestrain symptoms is long:

Eyestrain, Burning Eyes, Difficulty Refocusing, Grittiness, Dry Eyes, Blurred Vision, Headaches, Irritation, Tired Eyes, Neck/Shoulder/Back Pain, Double Vision, and Redness.

It is reported that we blink an average of 10 times a minute normally, when reading, using a smartphone or other device the blink rate drops to 4 times a minute. Blinking is a vital component to ocular surface health and tear stability. More important than how often we blink is how well we blink. An incomplete blink can cause more tear instability than not enough blinks. A complete blink is necessary to stimulate a muscle on the eyelid margin that releases an important component of the tear film.

Treatment for Digital Eyestrain includes wearing the best visual correction for the task. Reducing glare and fatiguing light with coatings is beneficial also. For contact lens wearers the proper correction for the working distance is important. A clean contact lens surface and proper blinking can minimize dry eye symptoms.


Red Winter Eyes

Colder temperatures, winter winds and moisture zapping heaters can cause dry, red and irritated eyes. Tears are essential for good eye health and clear vision. They bathe the eye, washing out dust and debris, and keep the surface moist and clear. The natural tear film also contains enzymes that neutralize microorganisms, reducing the risk of eye infections. Tear FilmThe most common signs and symptoms of dry eyes are persistent dryness and irritation, scratchiness, a burning feeling in your eyes and red eyes. Oddly enough, dry eye syndrome also can make your eyes watery, as dryness can cause a protective overproduction of the watery component of your tears.

How to prevent dry eyes in winter:

  • Cold winter wind outdoors and dry heat indoors can cause or worsen dry eyes. Follow these tips to keep dry eyes at bay.
  • Wear sunglasses or goggles. Wearing close-fitting sunglasses outdoors reduces exposure to sun and wind that can dry out your eyes. If it’s especially cold and windy, try foam-lined goggles that provide even greater protection from tear evaporation.
  • Supplement your diet. Fish oil and other nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent or relieve dry eye symptoms.
  • Drink more water. Mild dehydration often makes dry eyes worse, especially during dry and windy weather.
  • Switch contact lenses. If your contact lenses feel dry and uncomfortable, ask me about trying different lenses that are replaced more frequently and/or are better for someone with dry eyes.
  • Maintain good eyelid hygiene. This includes thorough removal of all make-up and cleaning of the eyelashes and eyelids.

Dry eyes may not be completely curable but the dryness, scratchiness and burning sensation can be managed. In addition to dry eye evaluations, Westside Optometry carries products we have found most beneficial for dry eye treatment.

bruder mask

Bruder Masks   – a reusable hot compress      



Cliradex  – Individual wipes to naturally clean and promote overall eye and skin health


Avenova – A daily spray that cleans debris and microorganisms from eyelids and eyelashes, as well as reducing inflammation.

Oasis Tears

Oasis  – A preservative-free artificial tear that contains long-molecule hyaluronic acid which keeps the moisture on the eye longer.



Rosacea Awareness Month

Rosacea affects the eyes in many patients, and may result in a watery or bloodshot appearance, irritation and burning or stinging. The eyelids may also become swollen, and styes are common.

April has been designated as Rosacea Awareness Month with the intent to educate the public on the warning signs of this chronic but treatable facial disorder. Rosacea is a common but poorly understood disorder of the facial skin that is estimated to affect well over 16 million Americans — and most of them don’t know it. In fact, while rosacea is becoming increasingly widespread as the populous baby boom generation enters the most susceptible ages, a National Rosacea Society survey found that 95 percent of rosacea patients had known little or nothing about its signs and symptoms prior to their diagnosis.

Photo from National Rosacea Society

Photo from National Rosacea Society

Rosacea typically presents anytime after the age of 30 and may initially resemble a simple sunburn or an inexplicable blush. Suddenly, without warning, a flush comes to the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. This recurs over and over with the redness lasting longer each time and eventually visible blood vessels may appear. Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, growing more extensive over time and burning and itching are common.

In severe cases, especially in men, the nose may become enlarged from the development of excess tissue. This is the condition that gave comedian W.C. Fields his trademark red, bulbous nose. The eyes can be affected too. Ocular involvement includes watery, burning and bloodshot eyes.

Ongoing research has suggested that rosacea may be caused by various possible factors, including defects of the immune system, nervous system, facial blood vessels and genetics. Most recently the presence of microbes and Demodex mites on the skin can trigger symptoms. Demodex are normal inhabitants of human skin but occur in far greater numbers in people with rosacea. It is believed that an immune response to bacteria associated with the mites may lead to the inflammatory bumps and pimples.

A study by a dermatologist at Duke University found a significant association between the relative presence of the mites and the development of rosacea, suggestion that the microscopic mites may be involved in the disease process. The study authors also proposed that increased mite density in the skin might trigger inflammatory response, block hair follicles or help transmit other bacteria in the skin , leading to signs and symptoms of rosacea.

Demodex mites also live in the eyelash follicles. they survive on dead skin and protein. We have found that reducing the number of Demodex living on the eyelid can reduce dry eye symptoms of burning and waterness. Controlling the Demodex requires a special cleaning solution containing a derivative of Tee Tree Oil. If you have or suspect you have rosacea and are suffering from burning red eyes, make an appointment in our dry eye clinic for evaluation and treatment.

Although the definitive cause of rosacea remains unknown, a vast array of lifestyle and environmental factors have been found to trigger flare-ups of signs and symptoms in various individuals. Common rosacea triggers include sun exposure, emotional stress, hot or cold weather, wind, heavy exercise, alcohol, spicy foods, heated beverages, humidity, certain skin-care products and potentially an overabundance of Demodex mites.

Signs and Symptoms of Rosacea

  • Redness on the cheeks, nose , chin or forehead
  • Small visible blood vessels on the face
  • Bumps or pimples on the face
  • Watery or irritated eyes

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

A common complaint I hear is  “my eyes burn and water.” Meibomian Gland Dysfunction is a common, chronic condition and is usually the cause of the discomfort. MGD occurs when the opening to the meibomian gland is plugged. The openings to the glands are at the edge of the eyelid margins, near the base of the eyelashes. The blockage can be caused by make-up, lotions, and sunscreens that plug the opening. Other factors are usually involved too. For example, skin conditions such as acne rosacea are a common cause of MGD.  Age, sex, hormonal disturbances, allergies and certain medications negatively affect the glands too.
The treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Hot compresses and eyelid hygiene is always recommended. Dietary modifications, inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids and hydration are beneficial. For more advanced cases, topical and/or oral medications may be required to control MGD.
If left untreated, the glands will thicken and scar causing chronic dry eye signs and symptoms and more discomfort.


Burning Eyes

Red rimmed eyes, burning eyes, watery eyes. These are symptoms of eyelid inflammation caused from Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), blepharitis or both. Another condition of the eyelid that causes discomfort and redness are styes; when one of the eyelid glands becomes infected. Styes are more localized and found on the edge if the eyelid.
The Meibomian glands are between the eyelashes. They can become plugged and inflamed causing problems with the tear quality. The compromised tears evaporate quickly causing the lacrimal gland to overcompensate and produce too many tears which spill over the eyelids. The inflammation produces a foamy discharge that sits on the lower eyelid margin causing irritation and burning.

Blepharitis in an infection or irritation of the eyelid. The typical sign of “bleph” is flakes and/or debris on the eyelashes. The flakes and debris end up in the eye causing irritation and redness.
At night when we sleep, the eye is closed and not blinking. Tear production is greatly reduced. Anything left on the eyelashes and eyelids will sit on the eye all night causing discomfort, grittiness and redness by morning. Treatment involves removing the potential irritants. This includes thorough removal of make-up and creams. A hot compress will soften the waxy plugs in the meibomian glands. Mild cleaning solution and a washcloth or cotton swab will remove debris from the eyelids and eyelashes. For a printable description of eyelid hygiene click here.

Good lid hygeine will improve contact lens comfort during the day, and reduce dry eye symptoms too.


Eye Irritation

The skin condition, Acne Rosacea, may affect the eyes. A recent survey by the National Rosacea Society reports that 60 percent of rosacea patients also have eye involvement. In fact, ocular symptoms may appear before the effects of rosacea appear on the skin. Ocular Rosacea is characterized by redness around the eyelids, bloodshot eyes and watery appearance. Sufferers of Ocular Rosacea experience foreign body sensation, burning or stinging, dryness, itching, light sensitivity and blurred vision.

Gentle, consistent cleaning and oral medication may relief the symptoms of ocular rosacea. If ocular rosacea is not treated, patients could endure potentially serious consequences, such as scarring or corneal damage that could lead to decreased vision.

If you have any questions or would like more information about ocular rosacea, call the office or post a comment.