Why do my eyes burn when I cry
Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash
why do my eyes burn when I cry? A man crying and rubbing his eyes
Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

Why do my eyes burn when I cry? May be it is due to infection or physical condition of your body. Whatever the cause is you need to find it out as soon as possible to relieve your eye pain. It is important to maintain good health and take good care of your eyes. Don’t let your tears make your eyes worse.

Going from drying up to burning sensation, we all have experienced this feeling of irritated eyes while crying. We can’t always blame environmental factors and allergies especially when eyes are burning out of cry.

This article explains all the possible reasons and causes why do my eyes burn when I cry and how to find relief.

Why do people cry?

Humans are capable of crying in response to emotions. Lacrimal glands located above the surface of our eyes first produce fluid that our eyes become watery and this fluid then roll down the face in form of thick tears.

The reason behind emotional tears can be different for a different person. Sometimes the reasons are also gender-specific. According to eye doctors, women cry up to 64 times per year and they cry mostly when they lose something or in conflict situations whereas men cry 17 times per year in a situation of separation and out of empathy.

Many people find crying to be mood-lifting and provide relief when they cry out of anger or stress. But if your eyes burn during crying it can make the situation even worse.

Apart from crying, lacrimal fluid is constantly produced by our eyes which is necessary for the lubrication of eyes and the composition of this fluid is different from tears produced in response to emotions of sadness and joy.

How tears are formed and why do my eyes burn when I cry?

The surface of our eyes is evenly lubricated by the tears in the form of the tear film. The lacrimal gland along with other small glands present in the margin of the eyelid produce lacrimal fluid. Small glands are responsible for the composition and ingredients of the tears.

Tears are made up of salts, water, oil, and proteins. Germs cause inflammation of the eye and the enzymes present in tear are responsible for the defense against these germs.

The tear film is mainly responsible that why do my eyes burn when I cry. Any disruption in the natural production of tears and lubrication of the eye can result in the breaking up of the tear films. This causes itching, burning, and redness of the eye.

The connection between dry eyes and burning eyes

Burning of the eyes is directly related to dry eyes. Whenever the tear film gets ruptured and the water evaporates too quickly it results in dry eyes. Drying of eyes causes a sensation of itching and burning.

Why do my eyes burn when I cry and rupture in the tear film?

what does the tear film is made up of?

Our eyes mostly burn when they dry out and the drying is directly related to the composition and working of the tear film. When tear film becomes unstable it can make our eyes burn while crying. The tear film coats our cornea (surface of the eye) and is made up of three layers:

  • Mucus
  • Water
  • Oil

The mucus layer is the deepest and innermost layer and it helps adhere the tear film to the epithelial cells of the cornea and tears to spread evenly over the surface of the eye. It directly coats the cornea of our eyes. It has a slimy consistency and consists of sugars and high molecular weight glycoproteins such as mucin. Three different types of ocular cells secrets mucin layer:

  • Goblet cells present on the conjunctiva of the eye
  • Conjunctival epithelial cells
  • Main and the accessory lacrimal glands

Water and the aqueous layer is the middle layer. It is the thickest layer and makes up most of the tear and constitutes about 90% of the tear film. It is produced by lacrimal glands of the eyelid and helps in cleaning the eye and washing away the particles that do not belong to the eyes. This layer also contains enzymes, nutrients as well as oxygen.

The oil and lipid is outermost layer of tears. It is generated by the so-called meibomian gland of the eye. The oil and lipid layer keeps surface of tears smooth and acts as a barrier to the evaporation and drying out of the water layer too quickly. Oil layer aids in the stabilization of the tear film. Mechanical pressure of the blinking activates the sweat glands present in the eyelids from which these oils come and that is why sometimes blinking also clears your blurry visions.

Sometimes blink doesn’t produce enough oil to coat the tears and make sure that they do not evaporate because of the clogging of oil glands. And when water evaporates it results in a burning sensation. The reduced composition of any of these layers could be the reason why do my eyes burn when I cry. 

What functions does the tear film perform?

It performs many important functions to maintain overall eye health:

  • Protects the cornea from drying out by maintaining a moist environment on the surface of the eye.
  • Supply nutrients and oxygen to the cornea for its metabolism.
  • Keeps the surface of the eye lubricated.
  • Protects against germs, bacteria by special enzymes such as lysozyme and antibodies.
  • Removes waste and foreign bodies from the cornea.
  • Blinking helps to clean the surface of the eye.

Rupture of the tear film and burning eyes

Tear films break up when there is not enough oil in the lacrimal fluid and if there is a lack of liquid in the middle watery layer. The optimal composition of tears is required for the stabilization of all three layers of the tear film. There are several reasons why do my eyes burn when I cry due to rupture of tear film:

  • Eyes become more easily irritated by natural blinking or foreign bodies due to the rupture of the tear film resulting in a burning and itching sensation.
  • Eyes try to counteract this situation resulting in the production of increased tears causing more burning conditions.
  • The supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cornea becomes disrupted because the protective function of the tear film is unstable and suspended.

Reasons that cause changes in the tear film

Reasons for the changed composition of the tear film and lacrimal fluid varies from person to person:

  • Any existing medical disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory vascular disease, and thyroid problems can cause rupture of tear film leading to dry or burning eyes.
  • Medications such as antihistamines, contraceptive pills, and antidepressants can affect tear production and lubrication.
  • Women are more like to develop burning sensations when they cry due to hormonal changes, pregnancy, and menopause.
  • The composition of tear film also depends on the age factor. Older people have more chances to experience burning eyes while crying.

Why do my eyes burn when I cry and the outside factors?

The number of people suffering from burning eyes has doubled over the past few years. The reason for the increase is related to environmental and outside factors. Factors such as smoke, dry air, chemicals, and fragrances can rupture the tear film.


Allergens present in your home and environment can enter your eyes and make them itch and burn while you cry.

Contact lenses

If you are wearing contact lenses for too long then they can rupture the oily layer resulting in damage to tear film. This will make your eyes burn.

Long screen time

Working for long hours on a PC and a lower blinking rate can also affect the health of your eye making them more susceptible to burning.

UV radiations

Long time exposure to Uv radiation known as photokeratitis can affect your cornea and conjunctive leading to burning and itching.

Why do my eyes burn when I cry? Try one of these home remedies to prevent it

Keep reading to find out how you can prevent your eyes from burning and how you can quickly ease your symptoms:

Use artificial tears

Regularly use artificial tears to keep your eyes lubricated and prevent them from drying out and burning sensations.

Apply a cold compress

Take a clean washcloth and wash it with cold water and simply press it over your eyes. This will help reduce the burning.

Use humidifier

when the air is dry around you. Install a humidifier inside your house to add moisture to the air. And avoid blowing direct heat into your eyes.

Use sunglasses

Wear glasses when going out in the sun. Radiations from sunlight affect your teat film greatly. so never forget to wear sunglasses when going out.

Apply cucumber slice or tea bags

To soothe the burning sensation you can apply cucumber over your eyelids. Similarly, tea contains caffeine which penetrates the skin and helps ease puffiness and burning. Place the tea bags in the refrigerator and let them cool for 20 minutes. after that place them over your eyes for 15-30 minutes.

Take breaks between long tasks

If you are working for long hours and it requires your concentration then take eye breaks between your task. To help spread tears evenly over your eyes close your eyes for some time or blink them.

Tap or massage the infected area

You can increase and stimulate the flow of blood to the burning areas by gently massaging around your eyes.

Use eye mask

Eyes may become drying due to heaters and fans running over your house Use an eye mask while sleeping to prevent your eyes and lacrimal fluid from drying out.

Take your contacts off

Do not forget t take your contacts off before sleeping and do not wear the contacts for a very long time during the day. This will protect your eyes from burning.

Drink water

It is very essential to drink water to keep yourself hydrated. This is also very important for your eye health. If your body is dehydrated then your eyes will not remain lubricated resulting in a reduced composition watery layer of the tear film. This will make your tears burn during cry.

Use a cleanser or moisturizer

before sleeping and waking up apply moisturizer to your eyes it will help keep clean and moisturize your eyes. Protect from bacterial infections and conditions such as Blepharitis which can make your eyed dry and burn.

Remove your makeup

Don’t sleep with makeup on it will lead to the entry of particles into the eyes leading to a break up of your tear film and cause a burn.

When to see a doctor

After finding out the possible cause behind that why do my eyes burn when I cry you can decide whether it is curable at home and if there’s a need to see a doctor or not. If placing a warm/cold compress and wearing an eye mask didn’t work then it’s time to see the doctor.

  • Blockage of the tear duct may have occurred.
  • Underlying diseases can be the reason and you need to change your medications.
  • Conditions such as Blepharitis and conjunctivitis may have caused your tears to burn your eyes.

Get it checked as soon as possible and use your medications as prescribed by the doctor.


Crying out of anger and sorrow along with burning eyes can make the situation more worse for you. Some people face this situation due to their physical health while others are affected due to outside factors.

You need to find out the reason and possible causes that why my eyes burn when I cry and what you can do to make your cry normal. The methods to prevent burning that we have discussed will help you ease your symptoms after a good cry.

If the need arises to see a doctor then timely get it checked and better talk to your family and friends about your thoughts and feeling. Remember that you don’t have to get through it alone.