is eye pain?
Eye pain is also known as ophthalmalgia. Depending on where you
experience the discomfort, eye pain can fall into one of two categories. Ocular
pain occurs on the eye’s surface, and orbital pain occurs within the eye. Eye
pain is common, but it’s rarely a symptom of a serious condition. Most often,
the pain resolves without medicine or treatment.
Eye pain that occurs on the surface may be a scratching,
burning, or itching sensation. Surface pain is usually caused by irritation
from a foreign object, infection, or trauma. Often, this type of eye pain is
easily treated with eye drops or rest.
Eye pain that occurs deeper within the eye may feel aching,
gritty, stabbing, or throbbing. This kind of eye pain may require more in-depth
Eye pain accompanied by vision loss may be a symptom of an
emergency medical issue. Call your ophthalmologist immediately if you begin to
lose your vision while experiencing eye pain.
What causes ocular pain?
following may cause eye pain that originates on the surface of the eye:
The most common cause of eye pain is simply having something
in your eye. Whether it’s an eyelash, a piece of dirt, or makeup, having a
foreign object in the eye can cause irritation, redness, watery eyes, and pain.
The conjunctiva is the tissue that lines the front of the
eye and the underside of the eyelid. It can become infected and inflamed.
Often, this is caused by an allergy or infection. Though the pain is usually
mild, the inflammation causes itchiness, redness, and discharge in the eye.
Conjunctivitis is also called pinkeye.
People who wear contact lenses overnight or don’t disinfect their
lenses properly are more susceptible to eye pain caused by irritation or
The cornea, the clear surface that covers the eye, is susceptible to
injuries. When you have a corneal abrasion, you will feel as if you have
something in your eye. However, treatments that typically remove irritants from
an eye, such as flushing with water, will not ease the pain and discomfort if
you have a corneal abrasion.
Chemical burns and flash burns to the eye can cause
significant pain. These burns are often the result of exposure to irritants
such as bleach or from intense light sources, such as the sun, tanning booths,
or the materials used in arc welding.
Blepharitis occurs when oil glands on the eyelid’s edge become
infected or inflamed. This can cause pain.
If the blepharitis infection creates a nodule or raised bump on the
eyelid, it is called a sty or chalazion. A sty can be very painful, and the
area around the sty is usually very tender and sensitive to touch.
What causes orbital pain?
pain felt within the eye itself may be caused by the following conditions:
This condition occurs as intraocular pressure, or the pressure inside
the eye, rises. Additional symptoms caused by glaucoma include nausea,
headache, and loss of vision. A sudden rise in pressure, called acute angle
closure glaucoma, is an emergency, and immediate treatment is needed to prevent
permanent vision loss.
You may experience eye pain accompanied by a loss of vision
if the nerve that connects the back of the eyeball to the brain, known as the
optic nerve, becomes inflamed. An autoimmune disease or a viral or bacterial
infection may cause the inflammation.
An infection of the sinuses can cause pressure behind the
eyes to build. As it does, it can create pain in one or both eyes.
Eye pain is a common side effect of migraine headaches.
Penetrating injuries to the eye, which can occur when a
person is hit with an object or is involved in an accident, can cause
significant eye pain.
While uncommon, inflammation in the iris can cause pain deep
inside the eye.
When is eye pain an emergency?
If you begin experiencing vision loss in addition to eye
pain, this may be a sign of an emergency situation. Other symptoms that need
immediate medical attention include:
- severe eye pain
- eye pain caused by trauma or exposure to a chemical or light
- abdominal pain and vomiting that accompanies eye pain
- pain so severe it’s impossible to touch the eye
- sudden and dramatic vision changes
How is eye pain treated?
treatment for eye pain depends on the cause of the pain. The most common
best way to treat many of the conditions that cause eye pain is to allow your
eyes to rest. Staring at a computer screen or television can cause eyestrain,
so your doctor may require you to rest with your eyes covered for a day or
you frequently wear contact lenses, give your corneas time to heal by wearing
Doctors may instruct people with blepharitis or a sty to
keep warm, moist towels on their eyes. This will help to clear the clogged oil
gland or hair follicle.
If a foreign body or chemical gets into your eye, flush your
eye with water or a saline solution to wash the irritant out.
Antibacterial drops and oral antibiotics may be used to
treat infections of the eye that are causing pain, including conjunctivitis and
Eye drops and oral medicines can help ease the pain
associated with allergies in the eyes.
People with glaucoma may use medicated eye drops to reduce
the pressure building in their eyes.
For more serious infections, such as optic neuritis and
iritis, your doctor may give you corticosteroids.
If the pain is severe and causes an interruption to your
day-to-day life, your doctor may prescribe a pain medicine to help ease the
pain until the underlying condition is treated.
Surgery is sometimes needed to repair damage done by a
foreign body or burn. However, this is rare. Individuals with glaucoma may need
to have a laser treatment to improve drainage in the eye.
What happens if eye pain is not treated?
Most eye pain will fade with no or mild treatment. Eye pain
and the underlying conditions that cause it rarely cause permanent damage to
the eye. However, that’s not always the case. Some conditions that cause eye
pain may also cause problems that are more serious if they are not treated.
For example, the pain and symptoms caused by glaucoma are a
sign of an impending problem. If not diagnosed and treated, glaucoma can cause
vision problems and eventually total blindness. Your vision is nothing to
gamble on. If you begin to experience eye pain that is not caused by something
like an eyelash in the eye, make an appointment to see your ophthalmologist as
soon as possible.
How can you prevent eye pain?
pain prevention starts with eye protection. The following are ways you can
prevent eye pain:
- Prevent many causes of eye pain, such as scratches and burns, by
wearing goggles or safety glasses when playing sports, exercising, mowing
the lawn, or working with hand tools. Construction workers, welders, and
people who work around flying objects, chemicals, or welding gear should
always wear protective eye gear.
- Direct chemicals and potent agents such as household cleaners,
detergents, and pest control. Spray away from your body when using them.
- Avoid giving your child a toy that can injure their eyes. Toys
with spring-loaded components, toys that shoot, and toy swords, guns, and
bouncing balls can all injure a child’s eye.
- Clean your contacts thoroughly and routinely. Wear your glasses
on occasion to allow your eyes time to rest. Do not wear contacts longer
than they are intended to be worn or used.