Itchy Eyelids: What does This Symptom Mean?

Community Member

One of our most popular questions on SkinCancerConnection was a question posed by member Kylie about an eyelid rash which was itchy, flaking and sore.   This particular question received well over one hundred responses and there seem to be new replies each week. Members have been very empathic as so many have shared similar symptoms. Some responders have been diagnosed with a skin condition explaining these mysterious symptoms but many still have not. And the common question posed at the end of many comments is, "What is this?" I thought I would do some research on-line and try to take a stab at providing some information about itchy sore eyelids. We welcome any comments about resources, information, or your experience with these symptoms.

I want to preface my post by advising anyone who is having mysterious skin symptoms to seek the help of a doctor or preferably, a dermatologist. It is all too easy to try to diagnose yourself over the Internet but quite often you are going to be wrong about what you think is going on. You don't want to let such symptoms go unchecked as they could indicate that you have a serious medical condition such as skin cancer. My motto has always been, "When in doubt, get it checked out."

Don't have a dermatologist? Get a referral from your general practitioner. Or you can find a dermatologist by plugging in your zip code into the American Academy of Dermatology's Find a Dermatologist tool.

In researching these symptoms there are a multitude of non-cancerous conditions which may cause the symptoms of sore, flaking, itchy eyelids. I am just going to list several common potential sources of these symptoms because there are too many to list.

Non-cancerous causes for itchy eyelids -** Allergy**

The eye area is a common site for allergy symptoms to occur. If your eyes are itchy, red, and irritated it may be a sign that you are allergic to something in your environment. The common triggers are pollen, mold, and animal dander. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis may include a stuffy nose, frequent sneezing, and itching of the throat, nose, and eyes. In severe cases dark circles may develop under the eyes and the lower eyelid may become puffy and lined with creases. For women, one of the causes for itchy eyelids or irritation of the surrounding skin around the eyes is some type of allergy to your make-up or face cleansers or creams.

For more information about allergies please visit MyAllergyNetwork.

  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include red watery eyes, scratchy or itchy eyes, and a discharge from the eyes which can stick in the eyelashes. This discharge can be clear and watery or yellow/green. Conjunctivitis can be triggered by allergies, by contact with irritating chemicals, or by infections with either a virus or bacteria. Treatment depends upon what type of conjunctivitis you have, a viral or a bacterial infection. Warm compresses can help ease discomfort regardless of cause. If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor will most likely prescribe eye drops containing antibiotics.

For more information about Conjunctivitis please refer to this information guide to the Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Conjunctivitis or Pinkeye.

  • Blepharitis Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, mainly the eyelash follicles, causing symptoms of red, itchy, and irritated eyelids and scales which form on the eyelashes. Your eyes may feel swollen, crusty, and like grit is in your eye. Blepharitis is not contagious and does not usually cause any permanent damage to the eyes. The causes are varied and can include bacterial infection, seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff) of the face or scalp, rosacea, allergies, and in rare cases, lice.

If your blepharitis is caused by sebborheic dermatitis you may develop dry, flakey patches of skin on your eyelid.

Blepharitis can be a chronic condition for some and relapses are possible even after successful treatment. Treatment depends upon the cause but in most cases daily cleansing with water and baby shampoo or a doctor recommended eyelid scrub can help. In some cases an antibiotic may be prescribed if there is infection present. Dry eyes can be an accompanying symptom and artificial tears may ease discomfort.

To find out more about blepharitis you can read the information given by the American Optometric Association   or The National Institutes of Health.

These are just a few of the potential causes for itchy eyelids. You will need to check with your health provider about your particular symptoms. In my next post we will discuss the warning signs of skin cancer on the eyelid area and what you should look for as far as symptoms.

Thank you to all our members who regularly comment and share with us. We appreciate your participation and look forward to hearing from you.