Crying may result in temporary eye irritation. While mild and acute, or short-term, symptoms are considered normal, severe burning or pain could indicate an underlying eye health condition.

The symptoms of tear-related eye irritation can include:

  • burning
  • stinging
  • itchiness

Read on to learn more about why your eyes burn when you cry, and what you may do to treat eye irritation at home. If problems with your eyes persist, it’s important to talk with a medical professional for further evaluation.

Crying elicits tears, which are essential components of your eye health. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it’s estimated that the average person produces between 15 and 30 gallons of tears every year.

Tears help lubricate your eyes to protect your vision. Basal and reflex tears specifically help wash away:

  • dirt
  • debris
  • irritants

On the other hand, emotional tears tend to be produced in larger quantities as a response to emotional stimuli such as:

  • sadness
  • pain
  • happiness

All tears contain:

  • water
  • electrolytes
  • metabolites
  • lipids

But some researchers also believe that emotional tears possibly have additional hormones and proteins, according to a 2018 research review.

Burning sensations while crying aren’t automatically indicative of an eye condition.

Environmental irritants

If you’re exposed to smoke or other irritants, your lacrimal glands will produce tears called reflex tears to help get rid of these invaders. Reflex tears also have antibodies to get rid of potentially harmful bacteria.

Depending on the irritant being removed, you may experience burning with reflex tears. You’ll also likely experience a greater quantity of tears, which may feel like emotional crying.

One example is getting soap in your eye. Unlike an underlying eye condition though, burning and stinging sensations should ease after the irritant is removed.


Sweating can also cause stinging eyes. Your eyes may produce reflex tears in such situations as well. You may be at risk of burning sensations if sweat moves chemical irritants in your eyes, such as face products or cosmetics.

Eye burning when crying may also be related to an underlying medical condition. They include:

Dry eye

Burning is a common symptom of dry eye. Other possible symptoms include:

  • redness
  • blurriness
  • an overall dry or scratchy feeling

Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears to stay lubricated. Causes of dry eye may include:

  • hormone fluctuations
  • medications
  • wearing contact lenses

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, dry eye is also more common in older adults because tear production from the lacrimal glands naturally decreases with age.


Blepharitis is a condition that involves eyelid:

  • swelling
  • inflammation
  • irritation

If you have blepharitis, you may be at a higher risk of developing dry eye. This condition can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as:

  • burning
  • watery eyes
  • itchiness
  • dryness
  • crusty eyelids
  • light sensitivity
  • blurry vision

Eye allergies

Burning symptoms that worsen with crying may also be associated with eye allergies. While eye allergies can be seasonal from pollen, they may also be triggered by:

  • mold
  • smoke
  • pet dander
  • dust mites

Like blepharitis and dry eye, symptoms of eye allergies can include:

  • burning
  • redness
  • wateriness
  • itchiness

With eye allergies though, you may experience other allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and a stuffy nose. Symptoms may be worsened with irritation, such as from crying or rubbing the eyes.

Treatment for burning eyes when crying may include home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) products to address the underlying causes. Options may include:

  • warm or cool compresses placed over your eyelids with eyes closed
  • cleaning your eyelids with cotton swabs to remove crusts from blepharitis
  • using a warm washcloth to remove irritants from around your eyes, such as soap, sweat, or cosmetics
  • artificial tears for dry eye, blepharitis, and eye allergy
  • eye drops for symptoms of eye allergy
  • ointments or gels that moisturize the delicate skin around your eyes
  • indoor humidifiers to help add moisture to the air

Allergies may benefit from OTC antihistamines more generally. However, if you already experience dry eye, oral antihistamines could make your symptoms worse, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Instead, your doctor may recommend:

  • prescription antihistamine
  • decongestant
  • steroid eye drops

Severe allergies may also be treated with allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots).

Prescription options

Other types of prescriptions used in the treatment of burning eyes depends on the underlying cause, but may include:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) eye drops
  • antibiotic eye drops or oral medications for blepharitis caused by bacteria
  • steroid eye drops to control inflammation
  • eye drops that help your eyes produce more tears, such as cyclosporine (Restasis)

New cases of eye burning when crying should be evaluated by a medical professional.

While occasional reflex tears from eye irritation are normal, any chronic tearing and burning could indicate an undiagnosed eye condition.

If you already have an underlying condition, such as dry eye, it’s important to adhere to your treatment plan.

Call a healthcare professional if you experience new or worsening symptoms despite home remedies and medical treatments.

Burning sensations when crying may be temporary, and can resolve once you stop shedding tears. However, more severe burning — or burning that occurs every time you cry — make be a symptom of an underlying eye condition.

If your symptoms persist despite trying home remedies, talk with a healthcare professional for advice. Depending on the severity of your condition, they may also refer you to an eye specialist.