What can cause a rash around the eyes?

Orbital cellulitis Mediscan / Alamy Stock Photo
Orbital cellulitis Mediscan / Alamy Stock Photo

For various reasons, including dermatological conditions and infections, a rash may develop around the eyes. Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and cellulitis are examples.

Doctors may find it hard to identify skin problems around the eyes since a rash may be caused by several conditions. Doctors require a thorough examination of the infected region and a full medical history to diagnose a rash around the eyes.

To learn more about the causes, signs, and treatment of a rash around your eyes, keep reading.


  • Orbital cellulitis Mediscan / Alamy Stock Photo
  • Psoriasis JodiJacobson
  • Seborrheic blepharitis OHishiapply/Shutterstock
  • Contact dermatitis TisforThan/Shutterstock
  •  Atopic dermatitis nooraphoto/Shutterstock

Atopic dermatitis

A chronic skin condition is eczema. Several … the main difference of eczema have been reported by physicians, one example being atopic dermatitis (AD).

AD is a skin disease that typically develops in infancy and can develop in any part of the body, including the face and around the eyes.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that the following factors that may play a role in causing AD have been reported by researchers:

  • family history of AD, food allergies, hay fever, or asthma
  • immune system
  • where a person lives
  • chronic exposure to tobacco smoke, pollutants, and stress

People with AD can have a rash that is itchy. The AAD notes that an individual can typically feel itchy skin first. A rash starts to occur when a person scratches.

Depending on how old the individual is, the appearance of AD can vary:

In babies

The rash usually occurs in infants on the cheeks, scalp, and face. The skin can become scaly or dry. The rash will develop blisters sometimes and then ooze and weep fluid.

In children

Children can grow AD in the creases of the elbow and feet. Other locations include:

  • neck
  • wrists
  • ankles
  • crease between buttocks and legs

Some accompanying symptoms in children may include:

  • bumpy-looking skin
  • darkened or lightened skin around the area of the rash
  • thickened or leathery skin

In adults

Approximately 2–3% of adults experience AD.

If it persists into adulthood, people may have fewer rashes. However, they tend to have:

  • extremely dry skin
  • skin that is easily irritated
  • hand eczema
  • eczema on the eyelids
  • cataracts

Adults with AD around the eyes may have darker, thickened skin circling the eyes, which may be very itchy.


A person can make changes to their skin care routine and use certain medications to help treat AD.

Learn more about the treatment options for AD here.

Contact dermatitis

A particular form of eczema is contact dermatitis. Two forms of contact dermatitis are available:

Allergic contact dermatitis

When a person comes into contact with an allergen, allergic contact dermatitis occurs, such as:

  • nickel
  • latex
  • poison ivy
  • makeup

Symptoms include:

  • itching
  • rash
  • dry skin
  • stinging
  • burning
  • hives
  • blisters

Irritant contact dermatitis

When a person comes into contact with something that damages the skin, irritant contact dermatitis occurs, such as:

  • soap
  • shampoo
  • hair dye

Irritant contact dermatitis signs include dry and chapped skin. An individual can find inflamed, scaly, and swollen patches of skin if exposure to the irritant continues.


Treatment can include antihistamines, moisturizers, and topical corticosteroid creams for any form of contact dermatitis.

Seborrheic blepharitis

Seborrheic means that the rash effects greasy skin areas, according to the British Association of Dermatologists. The eyelids are affected by Seborrheic Blepharitis.

Due to an overgrowth called Malassezia, which is a form of harmless yeast, seborrheic blepharitis usually occurs. It may also occur as a result of the skin’s immune system overreacting to the yeast.

An individual may find that they have become inflamed, crusty, and flaky in their eyelids.

The affected area may appear lighter or darker than the surrounding skin in individuals with darker skin.

Additional symptoms include:

  • irritated eyes
  • oversensitivity to light
  • gritty sensation in the eyes
  • itchy eyelids


The use of warm compresses, eyelid massages, and eyelid scrubs may be part of the procedure.

For 5-10 minutes, a person should apply a warm compress two to four times per day.

An eyelid scrub will consist of gently rubbing the eyelids, such as a baby shampoo, with a wet washcloth and detergent.

Topical corticosteroid drops can also be recommended by a healthcare provider, which are usually safe to use in the short term. Long-term use can, however, potentially lead to adverse effects.

Also, antibiotics may be an option.


Psoriasis is a recurring disorder that can last for the life of a person.

The disorder occurs when skin cells are formed too rapidly by the body. This causes skin cells, which doctors call plaques, to accumulate and form patches or spots on the skin.

While several different kinds of psoriasis have been described by physicians, about 80-90 percent of people living with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis.

People with plaque psoriasis may notice:

  • patches of thick, raised skin or plaques of different sizes
  • scales, which are dry, thin, and silvery-white, covering some of the plaques
  • smaller plaques joining to form bigger plaques

Plaques, including the skin around the eyes, can occur anywhere on the body, but the most common places include:

  • knees
  • elbows
  • lower back
  • scalp

Plaques, including the skin around the eyes, can occur anywhere on the body, but the most common places include:

  • stress
  • injury to the skin, such as a cut or sunburn
  • infection, such as strep throat
  • medications, such as lithium, prednisone, and hydroxychloroquine
  • weather changes, especially cold and dry weather
  • tobacco
  • heavy alcohol consumption


To find the most effective medication, people living with psoriasis should speak with a doctor.

Usually, treatment options include topical, oral, and injected drugs.

Sometimes, various therapies need to be combined by physicians, and systemic medicines are rarely used without topical prescription medications. Biological drugs associated with a topical drug product can also be administered by physicians.

Learn more about the treatment options for psoriasis here.

Orbital cellulitis

Orbital cellulitis in a person’s eye socket is a bacterial infection of the soft tissues. The most common orbital cellulitis-causing bacteria include Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococci.

Symptoms include:

  • pain when moving the eye
  • limited eye movement
  • inflamed, swollen eyelid
  • discharge from the eye
  • difficulty opening the eye
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • loss of appetite


Anyone who suspects that they have a bacterial skin infection like cellulitis should seek urgent medical attention.

Antibiotics and surgery are common treatment choices.

Depending on the type of bacterium that caused the infection, the form of antibiotic a person may need for cellulitis.

Although oral antibiotics can be given to certain individuals, others may require intravenous antibiotics.

When to see a doctor

To assess the cause and potential treatment, anyone who develops a rash around the eyes should consult with a doctor.

An allergic reaction, which may require immediate medical treatment, can involve other conditions that may cause a rash around the eyes. Anyone who develops a rash around the eyes and has vision issues must seek medical treatment in an emergency.


A rash around the eyes can be caused by several conditions. Infections such as orbital cellulitis and dermatological disorders such as allergic dermatitis, irritation and contact dermatitis are among them.

To assess the cause, people who develop a rash around their eyes should talk to a doctor.

Physicians can treat rashes around the eyes with a proper diagnosis. Although some conditions are chronic or lifelong, physicians may prescribe medications to manage the appearance of a rash around the eyes, and design treatment plans.