Eye Pain (Ophthalmalgia)

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel

Definition

What 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 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 treatment.

How common is eye pain?

Eye pain is common, but it’s rarely a symptom of a serious condition. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Which signs and symptoms can eye pain usually be associated with?

Related signs and symptoms include:

  • A sharp, stabbing sensation
  • Burning eyes
  • A dull ache
  • Feeling something is “in” your eye (foreign body sensation)
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness (bloodshot eyes)
  • Sensitivity to light.

Causes

What causes eye pain?

Causes of ocular pain include:

  • Foreign object. 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.
  • Contact lens irritation. People who wear contact lenses overnight or don’t disinfect their lenses properly are more susceptible to eye pain caused by irritation or infection.
  • Corneal abrasion. 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.

Causes of orbital pain include:

  • 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.
  • Optic neuritis. 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.

The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of eye pain. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for eye pain?

You are more likely to experience eye pain if you have any of the conditions mentioned above.

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

When to see your doctor

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:

  • Severe eye pain accompanied by headache, fever or unusual sensitivity to light
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Eye pain caused by a foreign object or chemical splashed in the eye
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Swelling in or around eyes
  • Trouble moving the eye or are unable to keep it open
  • Blood or pus coming from the eyes

On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage eye pain?

These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with eye pain:

  • 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 more.
  • If you frequently wear contact lenses, give your corneas time to heal by wearing your glasses.
  • Use warm compress. 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 corneal abrasions. 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.

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.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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