Most of us have soreness in our eyes at some point of the day, which goes away when we avoid TV screens, wash our eyes, and relax. But continuous eye pain can be due to underlying medical issues.
What is Eye Pain?
Pain in your eye is called ophthalmalgia, and depending on the area where the actual pain is, it is described as:
- Ocular pain- Pain occurring on the eye’s surface.
- Orbital Pain- Pain occurring within the eye.
The pain can usually be treated with treatments like washing the eyes and relaxing them. But if it lasts for more than 48 hours, it may be because of a more complicated medical issue.
Eye pain feels very uncomfortable to the person experiencing it and produces various sensations. These sensations help us understand the exact cause of eye pain.
- Burning eyes
- Sharp stabbing sensation
- A feeling of something inside your eye
- A sensation of something behind your eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Pain when you rotate your eyes
- Eye discharge
- Eye twitch
- Watery eyes
Pain in the eye, which can be felt on the surface, can be treated easily with eye drops or ointments. However, the pain felt deep inside requires medical attention as it can also affect your vision.
What Causes Eye Pain?
Causes of ocular pain:
- The presence of a foreign body – If you have something in your eye, it hurts every time you blink. It can be anything like an eyelash, dirt, an insect, makeup, sawdust, etc. It requires immediate attention because if the material causing discomfort is not removed, it can result in an infection.
- Conjunctivitis – Inflamed and infected conjunctiva (the tissue under your eyelid) caused by an infection or an allergy.
- Contact lens irritation – Contact lenses sometimes irritate the eye if used for a longer duration, causing pain and discomfort.
- Eye injury – Eye injuries refer to spill of chemicals over the eyes, makeup, accidentally spraying perfumes or tanning solutions on the eye, extreme exposure to sunlight, exposure to sawdust from metal welding, etc.
Causes of pain behind the eye or around the eyes
- Sinus infections and migraine attacks – Sinus infections cause mild pain, while migraine causes pain behind any one eye.
- Blepharitis – The eyelid becomes inflamed because of an infection in the oil glands of your eyelid, causing it to hurt.
- Stye – A nodule formation on the eyelid because of infection causes it to be very tender and painful.
- Staring – Overuse of eye muscles while working on computer screens can cause strain in these muscles.
Causes of orbital pain
- Glaucoma – A rise in the intraocular pressure causes glaucoma and can lead to vision loss if not treated.
- Optic neuritis – An inflammation in the optic nerve (which connects the eyeball to the brain) can lead to vision loss.
- Iritis – Inflammation of the iris causes deep pain in your eye.
- Dry eye syndrome – Decreased production of tears or its evaporation can cause sharp burning sensation and irritation to the eye.
- Dacryocystitis – This is a tear duct infection resulting in excessive discharge of tears or pus with fever.
When to See a Doctor?
If the eye pain lasts for more than a couple of hours, with other symptoms mentioned below, you should contact your doctor.
- Sharp eye pain
- Pain caused by an injury
- Nausea or vomiting sensation
- Sudden changes in your vision
- Halos around a source of light
- Swelling around the eyes
- Trouble moving or keeping your eyes open
- Eye discharge
- If headache or fever is involved
The doctor will perform a thorough checkup by conducting a physical examination of your eyes using the slit lamp technique and dilating drops. He/she will measure the intraocular pressure of your eyes by a tonometer, conduct retinal exams for optic neuritis, and fluorescein staining for corneal abrasion and visual acuity tests.
How to Prevent Eye Pain
- Avoiding eye strain – Prolonged staring at screens causes eye strain. Resting your eyes by taking breaks helps. Viewing greener objects to relax the eye muscles is recommended.
- Using eye masks – Using cold eye masks also relaxes eye muscles and alleviates fatigue.
- Sleeping – Sleeping well for 6-8 hours gives proper rest to your eyes.
- Using glasses – Regular use of lenses can cause a corneal abrasion. Using glasses on some days gives your eyes time to heal.
- Washing your eyes – Wash your eyes with cold water whenever you feel there is something inside them.
- Washing your hands – Wash your hands before wearing lenses or makeup.
- Removing eye makeup – Always remove your eye makeup before retiring for the night.
- Discourage sharing of eye drops – Never share eye drops. It increases the chances of infection.
- Wearing goggles – Always wear goggles as protection when going out.
- Handling chemicals – Handle chemical solutions with caution.
- Children’s toys – Toys with spring or bouncy components should be handled with care.
- Eye exercises – Perform regular eye exercises by viewing a nearby object and then looking far away in the distance. Also, moving your eyes in all directions can be accounted for as eye exercise.
- Preventing dry eyes – Place a humidifier in your immediate environment to prevent your eyes from drying out.
- Reducing exposure to extreme temperatures – Minimizing exposure to extreme air conditioning or heating can also control dry eyes.
Risk Factors Associated with Eye Pain
Normally, eye pain fades away with mild or even no treatment. But if it does not, it can cause permanent damage to the eyes. For example, if glaucoma is not treated, it can lead to total vision loss.
- Warm compress – In blepharitis or stye, warm moist towels will help unclog the oil gland infection.
- Flush the eye – If chemicals or foreign bodies enter your eye, flushing your eye can help
- Antibiotic eye drops can be used to treat eye infections
- Antihistamine eye drops can be used to treat eye allergies
- Hydrating eye drops can be used to keep the eye moisturized
- Corticosteroids and pain medications can be prescribed if the infection is severe, as in the case of optic neuritis
- Surgery is recommended to repair the damage caused by a foreign body
Do not leave eye pain untreated. It can result in complications. Getting to the root cause can be simple with the help of your healthcare provider.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can migraine cause eye pain?
Migraine can cause pain in the socket of any one eye, lasting for a few minutes to hours. Pain associated with migraines can recur.
Can wearing eye lenses tire your eyes out?
Yes, the regular wearing of contact lenses can cause your eyes to strain. Wearing them overnight and not following a hygiene regimen can cause mild to severe eye pain.
Taking breaks from wearing eye lens after every one or two days is very important.
What to do if you feel a foreign body inside your eye?
If you feel a foreign body inside your eye, first wash your eyes with water. If your vision is compromised because of a foreign object, immediately contact your doctor.