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Eye Pain

Eye Pain

Eye pain is the sharp, burning, shooting, dull, aching, stabbing, itching or pressure sensation in the eye(s). The pain emanates from the eyes and is sometimes confused with headache, sinus pain, toothache or migraine. Sometimes eye pain is not so serious and can get better with time, but it can also be something to see the doctor about. The pain sometimes is due to a problem in the eyes or part of the eye such as the cornea, the sclera, conjunctiva, iris, orbit etc. eye is also called “Ophthalmalgia”.

Eye pain is grouped into two categories depending on the location of the pain.

  • Ocular pain which occurs at the eye surface
  • Orbital pain which occurs within the eyes.

Eye pain is common among people and is rarely a symptom of a serious condition. It is often treated by watchful waiting i.e. allowing time to pass before medical intervention. Ocular pain is easily treated with eye drops and is usually caused by infection, irritation due to the intrusion of foreign objects into the eye or trauma. Orbital pain may require treatment by a specialist(ophthalmologist) doctor.

Causes of Ocular Pain

Eye pain that occurs on the eyes surface may be caused by irritation due to a foreign substance in the eye. This is characterized by redness, watery eyes, and pain. These foreign objects may also include contact lens when they are not properly disinfected or worn overnight.

Injury: Chemical, intensive exposure to light may also cause eye pain. Bleach, skin exposure to welding materials, tanning booth may act as irritants to the eye and can cause significant pain.

Blepharitis: Occur when oil glands on the eyelids margin are plunged and caused inflammation of the eyelid. It is also a very common cause of eye pain.

Conjunctivitis: This is caused by the infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva (the tissue that lines the front of the eye and the underside of the eyelid). This is often caused by an infection or allergies. It is also known as “pink eye” because it usually makes the white part of the eye look red. It causes the eye to be itchy.

Style: This occurs when there is an inflammation or infection an oil gland, eyelash or hair follicle. It is also called chalazion. It caused significant eye pain and the affected area is often very tender and sensitive to touch.

Causes of Orbital Pain

Eye pain felt within the eye is caused by the following:

Glaucoma:  it occurs when there is a buildup of fluid in the eye due to increase in the intraocular pressure (the eye pressure) this condition is so serious and should be treated at the early stage so as not to cause blindness. The symptoms include eye pain, nausea, and headache. Glaucoma is an emergency case.

Optic neuritis: This is when there is inflammation of the optic nerve (the nerve that travels from the back of the eyeball to the brain). It often caused by a viral or bacterial infection or conditions like multiple sclerosis. Other causes of orbital pain include sinusitis (infection of the sinuses, migraine, accidents or eye surgeries, iritis (inflammation of the Iris).

Is Eye Pain an Emergency?

Since there are various causes of eye pain  (both ocular and orbital), it is often difficult to ascertain the particular cause of eye pain.  Also, the cause cannot be analyzed based on the severity of the eye pain. Some serious eye condition including cataract and glaucoma which may cause blindness causes little or no pain at all while conjunctivitis and corneal abrasion can be extremely painful.

The only way to find the underlying cause of eye pain and get proper treatment is to see a doctor. It is better to take eye pain seriously and find out the cause is not as serious rather than to leave the eye pain untreated and then find out later than it is a severe condition. Better safe than sorry.

Eye pain is prevented by wearing safety glasses when working with hand tools, avoid direct contact of chemical with the eye, wearing only clean contact lenses and remove the contact at night and being careful not to allow invasion of foreign bodies into the eye.