Almost everyone has eye pain at some point. Sometimes they get better on their own, but it is rarely a symptom of a serious condition. Most often, the pain goes away without medication or treatment. Eye pain is also called ophthalmalgia.

What is Eye Pain?

Eye pain refers to any condition in which you feel discomfort in or around one or both eyes. The pain can be sharp and stabbing or dull and stabbing. Your eyes may feel irritated or gritty. Eye pain can be accompanied by blurred vision, itching, redness, dry eyes, or watery eyes. A scratching, burning, or itching sensation may be eye pain that occurs on the surface. Can be a scratching, burning, or itching sensation. Superficial pain is usually caused by irritation from a foreign object, infection, or trauma. This type of eye pain is often easily treated with eye drops or rest.


Ocular Eye pain

The following can cause ocular eye pain that originates from the surface of the eye:

Foreign object

The most common cause of eye pain is simply having something in the eye. Whether it's an eyelash, a piece of dirt, or makeup, having a foreign object in your eye can cause irritation, redness, watery eyes, and pain.


The conjunctiva is the tissue that lines the front of the eye and the lower part of the eyelid. It can become infected and inflamed. This is often caused by an allergy or an infection.

Contact lens irritation

People who wear contact lenses overnight or do not disinfect them properly are more susceptible to eye pain caused by irritation or infection.

Corneal abrasion

The cornea, the transparent surface that covers the eye, is susceptible to injury. When you have a corneal abrasion, it will feel you have something in your eye.


Chemical burns and sudden burns to the eyes can cause significant pain. These burns are usually the result of exposure to irritants such as bleach or overly intense light sources, such as the sun, tanning booths, or materials used in arc welding.


When the sebaceous glands at the edge of the eyelid become irritated or inflamed, blepharitis occurs.


A Blepharitis infection can create a lump or bump on the eyelid. This is called a stye or chalazion. A stye can be very painful, and the area around the stye is usually very tender to the touch. A chalazion is usually not painful.

Orbital pain

The following conditions will cause eye pain felt inside the eye itself:


This condition occurs when intraocular pressure or pressure inside the eye increases. Nausea, headache, and loss of vision include additional symptoms caused by glaucoma.
A sudden increase in pressure, called acute angle-closure glaucoma, is an emergency and immediate treatment needed to prevent permanent vision loss.

Optic neuritis

You may experience eye pain accompanied by 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 bacterial or viral infection can cause inflammation.


Sinusitis A sinus infection can cause pressure to build up behind the eyes. Doing so can cause pain in one or both eyes.


Migraines: A common side effect of migraine attacks is eye pain.


Penetrating eye injuries, which can occur when a person is struck with an object or is involved in an accident, can cause significant eye pain.


Although rare, inflammation in the iris can cause pain inside the eye.


Diagnosing eye conditions requires a medical history and an eye exam. For more serious diagnoses, Imaging and blood testing may be needed for more severe diagnoses. Ophthalmologists use several instruments to diagnose eye pain:

  • A slit lamp exam uses bright light to look at all the structures in your eye.
  • Dilating drops expand your pupil to allow the doctor to see deep into your eye.
  • A tonometer is a tool that measures eye pressure, the doctor uses it to diagnose glaucoma.


Imaging tests are indicated to confirm some diagnoses of eye pain. For example, a computed tomography (CT) scan performed in case of suspected orbital cellulitis, while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed in case of suspected optic neuritis. Certain imaging tests may also be ordered to determine if an underlying whole-body disease is being considered, especially with a new diagnosis of anterior uveitis or scleritis.

Blood test

Blood tests are rarely used for the diagnosis of eye pain unless an underlying systemic disease is suspected. In determining orbital cellulitis, however, blood cultures and a full blood count (CBC) will be ordered.


Just as the causes can vary, so do the treatments. This targets the actual cause of pain in the eyes.


Antibacterial eye drops can cure bacterial conjunctivitis. Antihistamines can strengthen allergic conjunctivitis in the form of eye drops, tablets, or syrup.

Foreign body in the eye

Various methods of extracting foreign bodies exist: eyewash irrigation, removal with a cotton-tipped applicator, removal with a small needle, or removal with an ophthalmic drill. After removal of the foreign body, there may be an abrasion or rust ring (rust from a metallic foreign body), which would be dealt with separately.


To extract excess oil, the patient will be advised to massage the edges of the eyelids with a mild shampoo like baby shampoo on a soft cloth twice a day.


When sinusitis is determined to be the result of a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.


When migraine headaches cause eye pain, both can be treated with routine over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), and prescription migraine medications.

Corneal abrasions

These heal on their own. Your doctor may prescribe an ointment or drops of an antibiotic.


You will receive eye drops and maybe pills to reduce pressure. You might need surgery if they do not function.

Infected cornea

Antiviral or antibacterial eye drops may be appropriate for you.


Your doctor will treat you with steroids, antibiotics, or antiviral eye drops.

Optic neuritis

It is treated with corticosteroids.


For a couple of days, use warm compresses at home.

When to visit a Doctor?

Severe or persistent eye pain may indicate an underlying medical condition, such as uveitis, scleritis, or angle-closure glaucoma.
If you experience vision loss besides eye pain, this may be a sign of an emergency. Other signs that require medical attention right away:

  • severe eye pain
  • eye pain that doesn't go away after a few hours
  • visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or dark spots
  • visible swelling of the eye or nearby tissues
  • nausea or vomiting

Prevention and Home Remedies


If you wear contact lenses frequently, give your corneas time to heal by wearing your glasses.

Warm compress

Doctors may direct people with blepharitis or a stye to apply warm, wet towels to their eyes. This will help clear the clogged oil gland or hair follicle.


If a foreign body or chemical gets into your eyes, flush them with water or a saline solution to remove the irritant.


Oral antibacterial drops and antibiotics can be used to treat eye infections that cause pain, including conjunctivitis and corneal abrasions.


Eye drops and oral medications can help relieve pain associated with eye allergies.

Eye drops

People with glaucoma can use medicated eye drops to reduce the pressure that builds up in the eyes.


For more serious infections, such as optic neuritis and anterior uveitis (iritis), your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids.

Pain medication

If the pain is severe and causes a disruption in your daily life, your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever to help ease the pain until the underlying condition is treated.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does eye pain last?

It usually lasts two to five days. Sometimes, a stye can last a week or more.

2. When is eye pain severe?

It is unusually severe or is accompanied by a headache, fever, or unusual sensitivity to light. His vision changes suddenly. You also experience nausea or vomiting.

3. When I look up with my eyes, does my head hurt?

When your eyes hurt when moving, it's most likely because of eyestrain. It could also be because of a sinus infection or injury. Common causes of eyes that hurt when moving include eye strain.