Various dermatological conditions and infections can cause a rash around the eyes. Examples include atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and cellulitis. Treatment can depend on the cause, but may include creams, antihistamines, and more.

To diagnose a rash around the eyes, the doctor may perform a detailed examination of the affected area and take a complete medical history. After diagnosis, they can advise on a suitable treatment plan.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of a rash around the eyes.

View the slideshow below for photos of rashes around the eyes.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a type of eczema. It is a chronic skin condition.

AD usually appears in childhood and can develop on any area of the body, including the face and around the eyes.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) states that researchers have identified the following factors that may play a role in causing or triggering AD:

People with AD may have an itchy rash. A person may first experience itchy skin. When a person scratches, a rash can begin to appear.

The appearance of AD can vary depending on how old the person is.

In babies

In infants, the rash typically appears on the cheeks, scalp, and face. The skin may become dry or scaly. Sometimes, the rash may form blisters and then ooze and weep fluid.

In children

Children may develop AD in the elbow and feet creases. 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

If AD persists into adulthood, people may have fewer rashes. When it does occur in adults, it usually affects the:

  • face
  • back of the neck
  • behind the knees
  • inner elbows

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.

Contact dermatitis is another type of eczema. There are two types of contact dermatitis: allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when a person comes into contact with an allergen, such as:

  • nickel
  • latex
  • poison ivy
  • makeup

Symptoms include:

Irritant contact dermatitis

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

  • soap
  • detergents
  • solvents
  • water

Symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis include dry and chapped skin. If the exposure to the irritant continues, a person may notice inflamed, scaly, and swollen patches of skin.


Treatment for either type of contact dermatitis may include antihistamines, moisturizers, and topical corticosteroid creams. A doctor can advise on which treatments they recommend. Where possible, a person should also avoid the trigger.

Seborrheic blepharitis is a type of seborrheic dermatitis that affects the eyelids. It typically occurs due to an overgrowth called Malassezia, which is a type of harmless yeast. It can also occur due to an overreaction of the skin’s immune system to the yeast.

A person may notice that their eyelids have become inflamed, crusty, and flaky. The affected area may appear lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.

Other symptoms include:

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


Treatment for seborrheic blepharitis will usually involve using warm compresses, eyelid massages, and eyelid scrubs.

As the skin around the eyes is very sensitive, it is important to contact a doctor before applying any products on the eyelids or around the eyes.

Psoriasis is a chronic condition that can last throughout a person’s life.

The condition occurs when the body produces skin cells too quickly. This causes skin cells to accumulate and form patches or spots on the skin, which doctors call plaques.

Although doctors have identified several different types of psoriasis, about 80–90% 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

The plaques can appear anywhere on the body, including the skin around the eyes, but the most common locations include:

  • knees
  • elbows
  • lower back
  • scalp

Psoriasis may have a genetic component since it runs in families. Researchers are still trying to determine exactly how psoriasis develops. The immune system and genes seem to play a role.

People with psoriasis may experience flare-ups when they come into contact with certain triggers, like eczema. Some common triggers include:

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


A doctor can advise a person with psoriasis on the best treatment for them. Treatment options typically involve topical, oral, and injected medications.

Sometimes, doctors will need to combine different treatments.

Learn more about the treatment options for psoriasis.

Orbital cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the soft tissues in a person’s eye socket. The most common bacteria that cause orbital cellulitis 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 suspecting that they have a bacterial skin infection such as cellulitis should seek medical attention immediately.

Typical treatment options are antibiotics and surgery.

The type of antibiotic a person may need for cellulitis depends on the type of bacterium that caused the infection.

While some people may receive oral antibiotics, others may require intravenous antibiotics.

Surgery may be necessary if symptoms do not respond to antibiotics or if the infection spreads to other parts of the head.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is the most common type of lupus that affects the skin around the eyelids. The skin can appear dry and scaly, with a coin- or disc-shaped rash.

DLE is a type of chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CCLE). Around 5-6% of people with DLE will experience symptoms affecting the eyelids.


A doctor may recommend topical tacrolimus or corticosteroids for DLE affecting the eyelids.

Learn more about cutaneous lupus.

Anyone who develops a rash around the eyes should contact a doctor to determine its cause and possible treatment.

Some causes, such as allergic reactions, may require immediate medical attention. Anyone who develops a rash around the eyes and is having trouble with vision must also seek emergency medical attention.

Here are some frequently asked questions about rashes around the eyes.

How do I get rid of dermatitis around my eyes?

Treatment for dermatitis can depend on the type of dermatitis. A doctor may recommend topical medications, as well as home remedies such as cool compresses, moisturizing, and avoiding scratching.

What triggers eczema around eyes?

Atopic dermatitis may develop due to seasonal allergies or food allergies. Other types of eczema, such as contact dermatitis, happen when there is contact with an allergen or irritant. A person’s doctor can help them determine triggers for their symptoms.

Many conditions may cause a rash around the eyes. Among them are infections, such as orbital cellulitis, and dermatological conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis.

People who experience a rash around the eyes should contact a doctor to determine its cause.

Following diagnosis, the doctor can advise on a suitable treatment plan. While some conditions are chronic or lifelong, doctors can prescribe medications and design care plans to manage the appearance of a rash around the eyes.