Red, dry, or scaly skin near the eye may indicate eczema, also known as dermatitis. Factors that can contribute to dermatitis include family history, the environment, allergies, or foreign substances, such as makeup or moisturizers.
Some forms of eczema are chronic, while others go away with treatment. Treatments include home remedies and prescription drugs. You should consult a doctor if you have severe eczema near your eye.
Learn about the types of eczema, what can cause the condition, how you can treat it, and more.
There are several types of eczema. Three common types include:
- Atopic eczema. This type of eczema can affect people of all ages. One in 10 Americans has it, and it’s
more commonin non-Hispanic Black children. It’s long-lasting and caused by a combination of genetic predisposition, the immune system, and the environment.
- Contact eczema. This can happen when outside agents, such as cosmetics, irritate the skin. Anyone can be affected.
- Seborrheic dermatitis. This is a chronic condition not caused by an allergy or poor hygiene. It may stem from other medical conditions, yeast on the skin, stress, or the environment.
All of these forms of eczema can affect the eye area. This can be particularly bothersome because the skin around the eye is thin and sensitive.
Your eyes are a sensitive and vulnerable part of your body.
The skin surrounding them is thin. It has a barrier to block allergens or foreign substances from entering, but in some people, this may be impaired. This can lead to sensitivity that causes the eye area to become inflamed, even when other parts of the body are unaffected.
Some symptoms of eczema around the eyes include:
- itchy, dry skin
- red, swollen skin
- thickened skin
- irritated eyes that may burn and sting
- raised bumps
People with atopic dermatitis could develop scaly patches and an extra fold of skin under their eyes. Seborrheic dermatitis may result in scales that can flake off.
Treatments around the eye should be performed with caution. The eye is a sensitive area of the body, and your eyesight might be at risk if you use inappropriate treatment methods.
In all cases of eczema, calming the affected area and eliminating itching is key to treatment.
For atopic eczema, treatment begins with calming the flare-up and then determining a course of action to prevent future ones. Treating contact eczema involves eliminating exposure to the irritating substance.
In most cases, effective treatments should reduce the eczema in 2 to 8 weeks.
There are many home remedies and over-the-counter medications you can try. You should consult your doctor before proceeding. You may need to use multiple treatment methods to clear up your eczema.
You may want to start with home-based treatments for your eczema. Try some of the following options:
- Apply a cold compress to the inflamed area to reduce itching, swelling, and redness.
- Apply Vaseline.
- Ask your doctor about Aquaphor, which may help.
- Use a thick, unscented moisturizer or cream on the affected area.
- Control your environment by using a humidifier in dry areas and avoiding extreme hot and cold temperatures.
- Wash your hands before touching your eyes and the skin around them.
- Trim your fingernails so they can’t scratch or irritate the itchy eczema.
- Wash your face with an unscented, gentle cleanser.
- Avoid makeup or other irritants while the eczema is flaring.
- Find ways to ease stress in your life. Stress can worsen the condition.
It’s tempting to try other homeopathic methods to treat your eczema. However, you should be careful about what substances you apply to your face, particularly near your eyes.
Honey is thought to treat eczema, but you shouldn’t try it without consulting your doctor. Don’t use olive oil because it can damage the thin skin near your eye.
There are also claims that diets and specific vitamins and minerals may help eczema, but there’s little medical research backing up these assertions.
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatment
A corticosteroid can treat itching caused by eczema. However, consult your doctor before using it around the eye area.
Antihistamines can help with allergic reactions and may reduce itching and inflammation caused by eczema.
Moderate or severe eczema may require a prescription. Severe or persistent eczema needs treatment from a doctor.
There are several topical and oral prescription medications used to treat eczema, although some of them may not be suitable for the eyes. For example, regular or prolonged use of steroid creams may raise your risk for glaucoma, a very serious eye condition.
Some of the options your doctor may prescribe include:
- topical corticosteroids
- oral corticosteroids
- topical calcineurin inhibitors
- ultraviolet light therapy
Other conditions can cause a rash or irritation around the eyes. Some of these conditions include:
Blepharitis is eyelid inflammation with several potential causes. It can be caused by a bacterial infection, eyelash mites, medication side effects, and more. Symptoms may include:
- itchy eyelids
- red, inflamed, or swollen eyelids
- oily eyelids
- a burning sensation in the eyes
- red eyes
- watery eyes
- a feeling that something is in the eye
- crust on eyelashes or in the corners of the eyes
Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the eyes caused by mold, pollen, and other allergens. Symptoms may include:
- red eyes
- itchy eyes
- burning eyes
- puffing eyes upon waking up
Contact dermatitis is a condition that occurs when you have an allergic reaction to a chemical you came in contact with. You may experience this in or around your eyes when using new makeup, face wash, soap, etc. Symptoms may include:
- cracking skin around the eyes
- skin that feels stiff around the eye
- open sores that form crust
There are many causes of eczema. The different types flare up for various reasons. Eczema isn’t a contagious condition.
Some factors that may cause atopic eczema
- Family history. You’re more likely to have it if you have a family member with eczema, allergies, asthma, or hay fever.
- Environment. Cold temperatures and pollution can aggravate the condition.
Contact eczema appears after your body comes in contact with an irritant or allergen. Some of these triggers can include:
- lotions, oils, soaps, and shampoos
- nickel, which is often found in personal grooming tools like tweezers
- extreme temperatures
Your eyes may react to a substance you’ve been exposed to before. They may even react to a product you’ve used countless times, especially if the product has changed ingredients.
Any time you think that contact with a particular agent is causing eczema, stop using it immediately.
A doctor should review any cases of eczema around the eyes. During your visit, a doctor will also review any other areas that may have eczema.
Diagnosing eczema doesn’t require any lab tests. If the doctor thinks you have contact eczema, they may ask about the substances you’re exposed to at work and home. They may also ask about any products you use on your skin.
You may need to have a patch test, which exposes the skin to allergens that may be causing the eczema.
Many of the home remedies used to treat eczema will also prevent flare-ups.
Make sure you:
- avoid extreme temperatures
- keep your skin moisturized with fragrance-free lotions
- stop using any product that irritates your skin
Eczema should always be treated in consultation with your doctor. Some forms of eczema, such as contact eczema, will likely improve after several weeks of treatment.
More chronic eczema, such as atopic and seborrheic dermatitis, will need more extensive treatment to reduce flares.
Incorporating a proper skin care routine into your daily life will help the eczema improve over time.