Sore and Stinging Eyes?

My eyes regularly sting and feel sore. If I bathe them in warm water, I get only temporary relief, and the whites eventually go pink. Years ago I had some homoeopathic sulfur drops that worked, but the chemist has retired. Can you help?

– August 8, 2011

Stinging eyes can be the result of allergies, as can reddened eyes. Allergies that affect the eyes are fairly common – and pollen is the most common cause. In addition to stinging and redness, symptoms can include itching, tearing, burning and a watery discharge.

According to the National Eye Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, an increasing number of eye allergies are related to medications and to contact lenses. Other possible causes are animal dander (especially if you touch your eyes after petting a cat or dog) and cosmetics, including mascara, face creams, eye makeup and lip gloss. You also can develop allergic symptoms in your eyes if you rub them after handling certain soaps, nail polish or chemicals.

I would try to trace your eye symptoms to one of these causes or to some other product or drug you have been using. If you can identify the offending substance, you should be able to eliminate the problem by avoiding it. If the allergen turns out to be something in your home or work environment, use of a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters can help. I often recommend these devices to people who have allergies to pollen, dust, or other particulates and to those who live with smokers or in smoggy urban areas. HEPA filters work by forcing air through screens containing microscopic pores, which remove all airborne particles above a very small size. Over the years, I’ve found that HEPA filters work very well and aren’t too expensive.

You might also consider freeze-dried stinging nettle, which may help with allergies in general. Try taking  one or two capsules every two to four hours as needed. In addition, “artificial tears,” available without a prescription, can often help relieve allergic eye symptoms. And if homeopathic treatment worked for you before, I would consult another homeopathic physician to get the proper remedy.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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