The Case of The Mysterious Eye Rash

It started in April. An itchy, burning little rash at the corner of each eye. I thought it would pass. It didn’t.

My first instinct was to apply Neosporin, which I did for one day. And then I asked a nurse and she recommended a cortisone cream. So I bought some. It still didn’t go away. I called the dermatologist and was told the earliest I could get an appointment with a real doctor was July—THREE MONTHS away! So I made an appointment with a physician’s assistant.

He looked at it and asked me questions like, “Do you use things like Glade Air Freshener?” And I wanted to say, “Don’t you know who I am???” I mean, I’ve written books about not using things like Glad Air freshener.  But instead, I just said “no.” So he gave me an even stronger cortisone cream and told me to come back in six weeks.

In six weeks, it was still there. I had stopped using all of everything—no makeup, no moisturizers. I had switched laundry detergent and even stopped using deodorant! (Sorry!) The physician’s assistant took one look at it and said, “Stop using the cortisone.” Then he looked away quickly in a classic “tell.” I asked him why. And he said it could cause things like glaucoma. And then he said he didn’t know what it was, but I should just keep trying to deal with it and good luck, thank you very much.

I had gone online, of course, and found suggestions like using vinegar, which I tried. It didn’t work. My babysitter told me she got a rash when she was “around that age,” in other words, going through “the change.” I even asked an Ayurvedic doctor doctor about it, whom I was seeing just out of curiosity. Of course he told me it was a pitta imbalance. I would have to give up hot peppers! (Like hell!)

Then, a friend got me an appointment with a “real dermatologist” in New York City. Upper East Side! She was efficient: I was out of the office before my official appointment began, laden with three different prescriptions and two coupons for rebates. “I don’t really know what it is, but let’s treat it as if it’s rosacea, even though I don’t think that’s what it is. And oh, stop touching your face!” I started to think maybe I had MRSA, but then, wouldn’t I be hospitalized by now?

I took my time filling the prescriptions. After all, I am a busy woman. One day, I had lunch with a friend who has developed a super nontoxic line of skin care for women who have cancer and have super-sensitive skin from the effects of chemotherapy (and even those who don’t!). Her name is Lindy Snider, and her line is called Lindi Skin. She is not a doctor, but I complained about my rash to her, anyway. I had now had the rash for three months. To me, it was like a neon sign, although most people’s first reaction was, “I don’t see anything.”

“That looks like impetigo to me,” she said while squinting at it closely. Impetigo? The common rash kids get from some contagious dirtiness? Totally possible, I thought, although it didn’t have the telltale crust. My babysitter said if it were impetigo, I would start getting it on the side of my mouth. Lo and behold, the next day I started getting it on the side of my mouth.

What do you use to treat impetigo? Neosporin. Three days later I was rash free. Impetigo. Go figure.

On reflection, I realized that this little story is exactly why Rodale exists and is still totally relevant to our times. Whether it’s the first big book we published, called The Health Finder, or our huge best-seller, The Doctors Book of Home Remedies, or the perennial favorite (for 50 years), Prevention magazine column called Mailbag, a forum where readers shared their home remedies, we’ve helped readers find help.

Of course, you should talk to your doctor first if you have medical questions. But most common ailments—and even some major ones—are NOT cured by doctors or pharmaceutical companies (although, whichever one makes Neosporin I would like to thank very much); most are cured and healed by small changes and common remedies, whether it’s taking an aspirin, changing one’s diet, eliminating toxins, or avoiding of allergens…. And this is not where most doctors really are at their best. They don’t have that “residency” in medical school because they are focused on fixing the big stuff.

Anyway, I’m thrilled I no longer have my rash. Thanks, Lindy! And I’m grateful that I was reminded once again that we have to take responsibility for our own health—and that it helps to have friends whose experiences can help us figure things out.


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26 Responses to The Case of The Mysterious Eye Rash

  1. Donna in Delaware August 8, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Glad you are looking like yourself again Maria. What I am surprised about, is that they recommended a cortisone product to apply so close to your eye(s)! You could have lost your sight!!!! Most doctors are very careful to recommend using any cortisone product on the face, unless it was a bad case of contact dermatitis, or some other difficult skin ailment. Washing your hand immediately afterward is crucial, because if it ever got into the eyes, lets just say that it is not a fun thing to experience!

    It’s really good when you know someone who have gone through something similar before you have. Their experience and information can be, and ususally is, invaluable. I wish that we had more holistic practitioners in this country like they have in Canada and other countries. It’s good for the mind and body! Here’s to your health!

  2. Granann August 9, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I too have an itchy rash on my eyelids. Mine has been there for almost 2 years. This happened after I had been following my mother back and forth from hospital to nursing home rehab to hospital and finally home to hospice care. It was only on one eyelid. I went to an opthamologist who told me it was like my psoriasis (which is only a small patch on one elbow and flares up occasionally) and not contagious. I was to use the cortisone ointment 3x a day. It would probably go away but it most likely would come back. It sort of cleared up. It recurred, and now is on the other eyelid. The cortisone does nothing at all so I stopped using it after reading the glaucoma warning in the miniscule print on the packaging. I tried Neosporin, Vaseline, and calendula ointment but none of them do much of anything but give temporary relief from the itch. I’m afraid to try a “real” doctor or dermatologist so I’m learning to live with it. It isn’t easy to keep from scratching the seriously annoying itch.

  3. Rosalba August 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    Next time try bathing your eye with chrysanthemum tea and see how it goes.

  4. Jeanne Cimmino August 15, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    I’ve had skin problems all my life and have seen many doctors. Recently a friend with similar issues recommended Neosporin Excema Essentials cream. It is fantastic! It is the ONLY product (including cortisone and prescriptions) that has really helped.

  5. RC August 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Maria, so glad your story had a happy ending. For future, just a friendly reminder that Neosporin is a petroleum-based product (basically Vaseline – yuck). For that reason, I do not put it on or in my body. Who needs crude oil byproducts floating around in their system?

    For all skin issues for my family (and amazed friends now too), I recommend medical grade Manuka honey. Widely used in Australia and Germany, even for severe burn victims, it’s a miracle product. Google it to see what the Aussie and German docs are doing with it; there are many research study results online. And how’s this for safe: you can eat it if you want to! (Although do keep in mind for wounds you want to buy the *medical grade,* which is guaranteed sterile, not the jar in the natural foods store).

    A few years ago I fell on a rock wall and lacerated my shin from knee to ankle, about one inch deep. In the emergency room, the docs gave me a choice of all stitches (they estimated 70 in addition to the subcutaneous ones) or staples. Staples meant less lidocaine and less time on the table but stitches meant the scar, which they said would be bad no matter what, would be “thinner and cleaner-looking”. I’m not vain and those lidocaine shots were no fun, so I chose staples. I wan’t planning on entering any beauty contests and at least I had a functioning leg!

    I had to have the wound redressed frequently at my doctor’s office. Each day I went in they poured hydrogen peroxide over it and then liberally slathered it with Neosporin. I was also on a heavy-duty antibiotic (that made me so sick). Still my leg got infected and looked pretty scary.

    After about a week of no progress with the conventional approach, I took matters into my own hands because I’d heard of Manuka honey but never tried it. I redressed my wound myself daily with the honey, but still reported for my doc appointments — they were monitoring me closely and gradually removing one or two staples every few days up and down my leg. The progress my wound made with manuka honey had the whole medical office flabbergasted. Within 3 weeks the wound was nothing but a clean scab, not a trace of infection anywhere. Each time I went in, the doc, PA and nurses gathered around to ooh and aah over and scratch their heads at what they considered “impossible.”

    Some of my (vainer) friends had clucked concern about how my leg would be “disfigured” once I was healed up and one went so far as to say she’d get plastic surgery to minimize the horror (ha! as if!). Fast forward two years. I attended my son’s summer wedding barelegged (no makeup, just lightly tanned healthy skin). When I reminded people of the accident, despite standing right there looking at my bare legs, they could not tell if the scar was on my right leg or left. My doctors to this day cannot believe how it healed.

    I did absolutely nothing to the wound but treat it with manuka honey until there was no scab left. Then I switched to manuka salve, which is a blend of honey and some botanicals, for maybe 3 months. I live in NY and I had to order all the products from Australia and NZ – despite a *long and successful* history of use as an antibacterial and healing agent, the FDA/Big Pharma partnership has blocked its use in this country (can’t patent honey so there is no money in it for them).

    The brand I use is Medi-Honey but there are other Aussie and Kiwi producers as well. I apologize for the overly long post, but I tell this story to everybody who is interested in the hopes of helping them the way it helped me (and preventing people from putting petroleum on/in their bodies).

    Best regards,
    Dr RC Glen

  6. sarah August 16, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    Thank you Dr. RC Glen for sharing your story as well. The Medi-Honey that you reference and use, is that the same product that is produced by the company Derma Sciences? In searching for this product online, that’s what I’m coming up with but they are a Canadian based company. I don’t want to order from them if it’s not the correct product.

    Thank you.


  7. RC August 16, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    @Sarah – yes, it looks like the manufacturer of Medihoney (ComVita) has partnered with DermaSciences, so it is the same product.

  8. sarah August 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Great, thank you very much.

  9. RC August 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    @Sarah – I got the Manuka Salve (that I used once the wound was healed) online from (The Honey Collection out of New Zealand) — this page isn’t letting me post the full link for you, but look under “Remedial Products” for Active Manuka Salve. It is formulated by Dr Peter Molan of the Honey Research Institute of Waikato University. The site also has some interesting links to the scientific data on medical uses for manuka honey. I make sure my medicine cabinet always has a pot of this salve along with the Medihoney.
    (P.S. I don’t work for and am not affiliated with any of these companies, but I love them so much maybe I should be!) –RC

  10. Linda R August 17, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I had the very same experience. Had used everything I could think of without success—Neosporin, cortizone,antihistamine cream. The problem started at the corners of my eyes and spread across the eyelid. At first it itched and burned, turned red and swollen.This was followed by sandpaper like rash. I thought it looked like cellulitis but the antibiotic ointment did not help. Asked a doctor who said I needed to see a dermatologist. Subsequently, I found that , after being treated for a bowel infection with high doses of antibiotics, my eye problem cleared up also. Sometimes infections in other parts of the body may make us susceptible to infections elsewhere. I believe this eye problem resulted from seasonal allergies that caused a secondary infection. The point is that it was caused by an infection and needs medical attention.

  11. Linda August 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    I’m curious about Manuka honey. How is it different from raw local honey? I haven’t researched it at all yet, and just stumbled on this post. I have hives, and have used our honey on burns with great success. Wondering if local honey would work as well? Just curious.

  12. RC August 25, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    Linda, there’s some pretty good data on this site:

    It has to do with
    1) Manuka honey is a monofloral honey from bees that feed on the tea tree (you probably already know how great tea tree oil is). The honey contains the naturally occurring antibacterial MGO (methylglyoxal).
    2) For wound care, the therapeutic Manuka honey is sourced, gathered, processed and packaged in carefully controlled sterile conditions. Manuka is too pricey for me to splash around so I too use local raw honey for things like skin care (cleansing and masks) and hair care. In fact, I wash my face with (local) honey, coconut oil and goat’s milk every day!

    Hope that helps!

  13. Debra January 27, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    Thanks for this post, it was exactly what I needed. My rash is almost gone now.

  14. Michelle September 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    Interesting! The company I work for sells
    medihoney but I came across this blog while searching for a remedy for my under eye rash. My eyes look terrible & the rash actually burns. No dermatologist or immunonogist can tell me what’s causing it. I have some Medihoney gel so I’m going to try it – what can it hurt. The only alternative is prednisone which I don’t want to take.

  15. Lia November 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks for the info everyone! I’ve used raw honey for face and hair and have always been curious about Manuka. Good to know about Medihoney! Sending love from CA!

  16. Adam Antao February 8, 2016 at 7:40 am #

    May be its because of dust in air & UV Rays ..

  17. Carla Hudson September 12, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    Can this Mahuka Honey be used on rashes? My sister developed a rash on bilateral eyes (all the way around them) – Not diagnosed why though.

  18. Sarah October 13, 2016 at 9:48 am #

    Omg- dealing with same thing. I bet I got it from my 2 year old. Pls tarting neosporin on my eyelids today. Even the mouth sore showed up yesterday. I’m so happy I read this article. I probably need to throw away all my make up brushes, eye shadows, mascaras as they are probably contaminated now.

  19. SkinISHealedIAmhealed November 8, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    I am having the same exact symptoms. . .And I mean exact.. .

    People and doctors told me the same exact thing… cortisone/glaucoma; stop eating hot peppers; the change, etc.

    Funny, I ate hot peppers this past weekend the rash on my face and eyelid flared up again but not as extreme as before.

    My dr. prescribed a cortisone creme Triamcinolone which i used for 2 weeks for the first flare. . .dr. told me to reduce the dose. . .

    ??? So is it the peppers. .. or is it the effects of this drug. . .I have replayed the week of the first flare in my mind–eczema flare, stress, food allergy, etc….hormone imbalance, etc. . .

    i used luprin for fertility treatments for about 3 months about 2 years ago (learned that it is a chemotherapy drug)

    You mention a scaliness . . .which is what I also notice.. . ..I guess I’ll try vaseline and neosporin for the eye area. I have one or 2 more does for the other creme. . .

    Stay strong.

  20. SkinISHealedIAmhealed November 8, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    ? I keep hearing –heal the gut. . . If anyone has tips on how to holistically heal the gut to prevent other health problems, please let me know.

    Some say using prebiotics will help. I started yogurt and fermented pickles, vinegar. . .we shall see.

    I have not found the “magic” though the prescribed med made my skin glow beautifully after about 2 or 3 days of starting the treatment. Go figure.

  21. SkinISHealedIAmhealed November 8, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    I also wondered i the sun had reacted to the prescribed medicine. I don’t live my life in the sun, but just regular exposure going in/out of the house, car.

  22. David July 25, 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    Manuca Honey – Believe it !!

    A red itchy rash suddenly appeared around one of my eyes around 5 years ago. About 2 weeks later, it also started around the other one. At first, applying a steroid cream would make it go away for a day or two, then it was back. After several months of this, I went to a dermatologist. He gave me a milder steroid to apply. After a time, the steroids seemed to actually make the rash worse, so I started looking elsewhere, to little avail. One of the products I tried recently was raw Manuca honey. It was just the plain kind, not medical grade. I would mix a tiny amount of honey and a couple of drops of water in the palm of my hand and spread the mixture on the rash. I started out by doing it once in the morning and once at night. It left the skin around my eye somewhat sticky, but I continued to use it. Within a couple of weeks, I could tell a difference. Within a month, it was practically gone. I am currently only applying it once a day, just before bed. The rash appears to be healed. In another month or so, I am planning to stop the treatment and see if it is gone for good. I can hardly believe that the honey could cure this rash that has been plaguing me for 5 years.

    If you are experiencing a rash, especially around the eyes, and nothing seems to help, you should try this. I assume that any kind of raw honey may work just as well. But the Manuca honey is not nearly as expensive as any of the other meds used to treat rashes. I got an 8-ounce jar (enough to last for years) on Ebay for about ten bucks, I think.

  23. Sarah August 24, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    I am having PRECISELY the same problem – right down to it having started as little rash-y irritations in the corner of each eye. I’ve actually had the same thing in the corners of my mouth for a long time – a year or two, maybe? I’ve stopped putting anything on this area of my face – stopped even getting my face wet with hot water in the shower, for fear that this was irritating it. I just applied some antibiotic ointment – fingers crossed that this works. (And if not, I guess I’ll try this honey thing?) Thank you for posting about this – you have hopefully saved me many fruitless trips to the doctor!

  24. Chad October 23, 2018 at 7:15 pm #

    I’ve also been suffering from same eye rash as everyone describes. Started at corner of eyes, and seemed to spread all the way around. Steroid creme is the only thing that has helped, but want to get off that. Have tried about everything else. Glad to hear about Manuka honey. Ordering it right now…have nothing to lose! Good luck everyone.

  25. Rob January 29, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    I to have the same miserable itchy burning
    Scaley rash around both eyes, upper and lower. A doctor gave me Hydrocortisone ointment, burned like hell. It made it worse. I look horrible, my eyes are actually swollen. The slightest breeze and my eyes will water for the rest of the day. I am miserable. Nothing its helping. They itch like mad and I struggle daily with keeping my hands off of my face. It dried up and flaked off some in large layers. Thought it was over but now it is back to crust over again. I am near 50. Could it be related to menopause? I am worried it is contagious. It may have spread to my outter ear.

  26. AW May 6, 2019 at 12:58 am #

    I am also dealing with this same frustrating issue. I keep thinking it must be hormonal because I have never had it before and I think I am starting menopause now. I starts to go away and comes back. I have been prescribed several different medications that all say can cause skin cancer. Super comforting let me tell you. Exactly what I want on my face 😒. I keep mentioning the possibility that it could be hormonal but my doctor and dermatologist seem to blow it off. I just want it to go away 😫

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