What causes eye pain?
Eye pain may result from trauma, allergies, and infections of the eye area or more generalized conditions, including migraine, upper respiratory infections, and sinus problems. The most obvious cause of eye pain is a direct injury such as a cut or blunt impact to the eye area. A foreign body in the eye is another common cause of eye pain.
Eye pain can be caused by a variety of eye diseases and disorders that causes inflammation, either from infection or allergies. The cornea can also become inflamed or infected and cause pain.
Ocular causes of eye pain
Eye pain can also be caused by conditions directly affecting the eyes including:
- Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin)
- Chalazion (inflammation of a blocked oil gland in the eyelid margin)
- Complications from contact lens wear
- Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)
- Foreign body in the eye
- Stye or hordeolum (localized bacterial infection of an oil gland or eyelash follicle in the eyelid margin)
- Trauma to the eye
- Uveitis and iritis (inflammation of the structures of the eye)
Other causes of eye pain
Eye pain may be caused by conditions that affect other parts of the body including:
- Common cold (viral respiratory infection)
- Influenza (flu)
- Optic neuritis
Serious or life-threatening causes of eye pain
In some cases, eye pain may be a symptom of a vision-threatening or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:
- Acute glaucoma
- Corneal abrasion or ulcer
- Eyelid lacerations (cuts)
- Herpes zoster (shingles) on the face or eye
- Orbital bone fracture (fracture of the bone surrounding the eye)
- Orbital cellulitis (an invasive infection of the soft tissues around the eye)
- Penetrating ocular trauma (in which an object has penetrated into or is embedded in the eye)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of eye pain
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your eye pain including:
- When did your eye pain begin?
- Where do you feel the pain?
- Did you have any injury, or did anything get into your eyes?
- Did the pain come on suddenly?
- Do you wear contact lenses?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
What are the potential complications of eye pain?
Eye pain may be a symptom of a serious condition that can threaten your vision and your health, such as acute angle-closure glaucoma, orbital cellulitis, optic neuritis, or trauma. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
- Loss of the eye and orbit (the bone surrounding the eye)
- Loss of vision and blindness
- Spread of infection
Eye pain. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003032.htm. Accessed April 30, 2011.
Eye problems. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/505.html. Accessed April 30, 2011.
What is eye pain?
Eye pain refers to any condition in which you feel discomfort in or around one or both of your eyes. The pain may be sharp and stabbing or dull and throbbing. Your eyes may feel irritated or gritty. Eye pain may be accompanied by blurred vision, itching, redness, dry eyes, or watery eyes. Eye pain may result from trauma, allergies, and infections of the eye area, or from more generalized c... Read more about eye pain introduction