Eye pain can be described as:

  • pulsating pain,
  • burning,
  • stinging inside or outside the eyes,
  • Foreign body sensation.

Depending on the location of occurrence, eye pain can be divided into two groups:

  1. Ocular pain (on the surface of the eye)
  2. Orbital pain (inside the eye)

Superficial eye pain is quite common, but is rarely an expression of a serious illness.
The pain in the eye can indicate an important health problem.
Eye pain can be felt even with your eyes closed.


Causes of eye pain

The discomfort and pain can be caused by problems of the eyes or their appendages, including:

  • Cornea: transparent skin in the front part of the eye, where the incoming light is concentrated;
  • Sclera: white outer skin on the outside of the eye wall;
  • Conjunctiva: wafer-thin coating of the dermis;
  • Iris (iris): colored part of the eye with central pupil;
  • Eye socket (orbit): bony eye socket in which the eye and eye muscles are located;
  • Eye muscles: muscles that cause eye rotation;
  • Nerves: transport the visual information from the eye to the brain.

Superficial or ocular eye pain

Contact lens irritation
Those who keep their contact lenses on at night or do not disinfect them correctly are more susceptible to inflammation or infection-related eye pain.

Corneal ulcer (infection) Corneal ulcer (or ulcer-forming keratitis)
can cause severe ocular eye pain. A corneal infection occurs when bacteria enter the cornea through an incision.
The use of worn disposable contact lenses favors the formation of corneal ulcers.
Symptoms include:

A corneal ulcer can develop into a serious disease.
Some bacteria can be very aggressive, the cornea can break through and cause endophthalmitis or infection inside the eye.
Treatment is based on antibiotic eye drops, which should be used frequently (sometimes every 1 to 2 hours).

Blepharitis is the medical term for inflammation or infection of the eyelids that causes irritation or pain.

Conjunctivitis Conjunctivitis
is the inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by allergies or viral or bacterial infections. The blood vessels of the conjunctiva swell and the normally white part of the eye reddens.
Other symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Itch
  • Secretion formation.

Foreign bodies
Foreign bodies can get into the eye, such as:

  • dirt particles,
  • plant residues,
  • Grains of sand (in windy weather)
  • Splinter of a contact lens.

Foreign bodies, as a rule, have an irritating effect, the eye must be rinsed with water. If not removed, they can cause corneal abrasion.
This abrasion is the most common cause of nocturnal eye pain.
If the corneal epithelium does not return to its original state, recurrent erosions may make themselves felt.
It creates the feeling that something would scratch when the eyes are opened in the morning.

Barley graine
stye (hordeolum) is the inflammation or infection of the eyelash follicles or the surrounding sebaceous glands of the eyelid margin.
A stye is usually highly localized and causes pain to one eyelid.

Scleritis is a relatively rare disorder in which the sclera of the eye is inflamed.
It is often associated with serious health problems such as autoimmune or vascular diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, polyarteritis nodosa, lupus).
The white eye area can:

  • blush
  • swell
  • ache.

Deep or orbital eye pain

The causes of deep or orbital eye pain are:

Infection of the cornea (keratitis)
Corneal inflammation or infection can be caused by shingles (herpes zoster), wearing contact lenses at night, or improper cleaning.

Glaucoma is a disease of the eyes that usually has no symptoms in the early stages.
In angle-closure glaucoma, intraocular pressure increases quite suddenly.
The symptoms are:

These symptoms represent an emergency, immediate treatment is necessary to prevent permanent blindness.

Iritis or uveitis refers to the inflammation of the middle skin of the eye and is a rare disease.
It can be caused by trauma, infection or autoimmune diseases. The symptomatology includes:

  • Ache
  • reddened eyes,
  • Photosensitivity
  • Spots in the visual field (Mouches volantes)
  • decreased vision.

Neuritis of the optic nerve Retrobulbar neuritis refers to the inflammation of the optic nerve
that connects the posterior part of the eyeball to the brain.
Symptoms of this nerve inflammation include:

  • severe pain during eye movement,
  • faded color perception,
  • Loss of vision.

The cause is autoimmune diseases, viral or bacterial infections.

Concomitant symptoms of eye pain

Depending on the patient’s complaints, in addition to eye pain, accompanying symptoms may be noticeable:

  • Itching and redness – possible cause is an allergic reaction.
  • Photosensitivity (photophobia) – for corneal ulcer, uveitiskeratitis and migraine.
  • Clear or colored discharge (pus) – if the patient suffers from conjunctivitis or infectious keratitis.
  • Difficulty opening the eyes after sleep because the eyelashes are glued – the cause is an infection or the result of surgical laser surgery.
  • Foreign body sensation – caused by Graves’ disease.
  • Nausea or vomiting – with glaucoma or migraine.
  • Decreased vision – may be caused by optic neuritis, corneal abrasions, foreign bodies, glaucoma, migraine, iridocyclitis and ocular herpes.
  • Tired eyes – sitting at the PC for too long.
  • Headaches – for example, in the case of sinusitis or refractive errors (myopiaastigmatismfarsightedness).

Diagnosis of eye pain

The doctor can diagnose common eye diseases, such as conjunctivitis.
If the doctor suspects that there is a serious cause behind the eye pain, the patient is referred to an ophthalmologist.
Ophthalmologists have special examination equipment and methods available in their practice for diagnosis:

  • Slit lamp examination: with the help of the slit-shaped light beam, the eye structures can be inspected.
  • Basic eye examination: pupil dilation with eye drops so that the doctor can look deep into the eyes.
  • Tonometer: By measuring intraocular pressure with a tonometer, an increase in pressure due to glaucoma can be detected.

Home remedies for eye pain

The self-help measures usually consist of supplying the eye with moisture in the form of water.
If foreign bodies or chemical substances get into the eye, it is important to rinse the eye with lukewarm tap water or eye drops.

An effective method of removing a foreign body:

  • Fill a bowl with water.
  • Dip your face in the water.
  • Open and close your eyes.

In this way, a foreign body can be safely removed from the eye.
If this does not succeed, do not try to remove the foreign body from the eye otherwise, but contact an expert.

Treatment of eye pain

The treatment depends on which underlying disease is present.

Conjunctivitis: Infection-related conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments if symptoms are severe or persist for more than two weeks.
For allergic conjunctivitisantihistamines and antiallergic eye drops are used.

Injuries to the cornea and ulceration: Anti-inflammatory eye drops and medications are used against the pain, if there is an infection, antibiotic eye drops are required.
The doctor may recommend eye drops for pupil dilation.

Foreign body in the eye: There are several methods for removing the foreign body:

  1. eye washing,
  2. removal by cotton swabs,
  3. Removal with a small needle or ophthalmic drill.

Blepharitis: The doctor shows how to clean the eyelid edges with the help of a gentle shampoo and a soft cloth twice a day to remove the excess oil.

Barley or hailstone: The treatment is carried out with heat compresses, which are placed on the eyes four times a day for 15-20 minutes.
Local antibiotics in the form of ointments are also possible.
If the hailstone has not regressed within three to four weeks, it can be surgically removed by the ophthalmologist.

Glaucoma: Glaucoma has different treatment options depending on the type, severity and duration of the disease.
Glaucoma can represent a medical emergency; permanent eye damage may occur within a few hours if no treatment is provided.
Treatment initially includes medications to reduce eye fluid, such as:

  • beta-blockers,
  • anti-inflammatory eye drops with cortisone,
  • Drops with pupil-narrowing effect.

Other medications may be administered intravenously or in tablet form.
If these measures cannot reduce the internal pressure in the eye, surgery can be considered.

Iritis: This condition can be treated with pupil-dilating drops (mydriatic) and with topical steroids in the form of eye drops.
In severe cases, the steroids can be taken orally.

Optic neuritis: Gradual blindness and eye pain when moving are signs of this condition, which is diagnosed by the ophthalmologist and neurologist.

What happens if eye pain is not treated?

In most cases, eye pain passes on its own or can be treated with natural remedies.
The diseases that cause eye pain rarely cause permanent eye damage, but the possibility exists.

For example, pain and symptoms caused by glaucoma indicate an impending problem. If not detected and treated early, glaucoma can lead to visual disturbances and even complete blindness.

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