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Eye Pain - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Eye pain is caused by various conditions in different parts of the eye. This article will discuss the conditions causing eye pain in detail.

Written by

Dr. Sumithra. S

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shikha Gupta

Published At September 15, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 20, 2023


Eyes are prone to a number of infections and injuries. The common sign of an eye infection or injury is pain. Eye pain, also known as ophthalmalgia, can be experienced in any part of the eyes. There are various bacterial and viral conditions, injuries, and irritant-cause inflammation capable of causing eye pain.

What Are the Various Conditions That Cause Eye Pain?

1. Conjunctivitis -

Also known as pink eye, it is a condition of the conjunctival layer of the eyes. Conjunctiva is a thin layer that covers the white part of the eyes and the eyeball. In cases of bacterial infection, viral infection, or an allergy, the conjunctival layer is inflamed and causes red eyes. This condition is not mostly associated with pain but can cause an itching sensation. It can also affect the babies due to incompletely opened tear ducts. Conjunctivitis can be cured with medications. Doctors will prescribe eye drops and medicines and suggest warm or cold compresses.

2. Dry Eyes -

Dry eye is a condition caused due to inadequate lubrication provided to the eyes. Dry eyes are caused due to various reasons like inadequate tear production due to a blocked tear duct, vitamin A deficiency, nerve damage, age-related changes, and taking certain medications for conditions such as Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and lupus. It can also occur due to tearing evaporation caused by wind, dry air, meibomian gland dysfunction, eye drops, etc. A dry eye will show signs like scratchy and burning sensation, eye redness, and blurry vision.

Treating the underlying medical condition is the best treatment to prevent further dry eye cases. Doctors will prescribe eye drops to ease the inflammation and will prescribe drugs to stimulate eye drops production. In some instances, an insert will be recommended to produce tears. In cases of blocked ducts, clearing the duct will be done, and will work on the tear duct to prevent excess tear drainage.

3. Hyphema -

Hyphema is characterized by the pooling of blood in the eye's anterior chamber (between the cornea and iris). It usually happens due to an injury from sports, accidents, or a fight and is associated with increased intraocular pressure. In children, it can occur without any injury due to a few underlying medical conditions like sickle cell anemia, or hemophilia. Hyphema is generally very painful. It needs immediate treatment to reduce the intraocular pressure and prevent bleeding. The pooling blood will obstruct the vision and affect it partially or completely. One serious complication of hyphema is the occurrence of glaucoma. It is a lifelong condition. So treating hyphema as early as possible is the best way to prevent complications. To prevent hyphema, one must wear protective gear while playing sports and driving.

4. Glaucoma -

Glaucoma is a condition of the eye caused due to increased intraocular pressure damaging the optic nerve. Glaucoma is a serious condition that can cause permanent blindness if left untreated and is a common factor causing blindness in people of age above 60. It is an extremely painful condition and needs immediate medical attention. Glaucoma can even affect the children due to a blocked drainage duct or an underlying medical condition.

5. Cellulitis -

Cellulitis is an inflammation of the soft tissues of the eye caused due to a bacterial spread from the sinus cavity. It causes extreme pain, swelling, and general sickness. The pain can be felt while moving the eyes and at rest.

6. Corneal Abrasion -

The protective lining of the eye gets scratched due to a contact with a foreign body or while rubbing the eyes. This is known as corneal abrasion. A cut in the corneal layer will cause pain and makes the eye extremely sensitive to light.

7. Keratitis -

Keratitis is the inflammation of the corneal layer of the eye. It is caused due to a bacterial or viral infection, an injury, or contaminated contact lenses. It is characterized by eye pain, redness, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. It has to be treated immediately in order to avoid complications like scarring and blindness.

8. Optic Neuritis -

Optic neuritis in the inflammation of the optic nerve. Optic nerve is responsible for carrying the impulses from the retinal layer to the brain, to produce an image for vision. Optic neuritis can happen without a specific cause. It will go on to cause multiple sclerosis in the worst case. Optic neuritis is characterized by a throbbing pain at the back of the eye especially while trying to move it.

9. Stye -

It is a bacterial infection of the small oil glands present along the edges of the eyelashes. Stye appears as a painful red pimple or a boil along the edges of the eyelids. Stye mostly contain pus. Warm compresses are the best at-home treatment for stye.

What Are the Common Symptoms Present Along with Eye Pain?

Most conditions of the eye have eye pain as a classic sign. Few other symptoms present along with eye pain are,

  • Eye redness.

  • Swollen eyes.

  • Tearing eyes.

  • Light-sensitive eyes.

  • Blindness - partial or complete.

  • Blurry vision.

  • Presence of floaters in the path of vision.

How to Diagnose the Conditions Causing Eye Pain?

The common diagnostic measures used to diagnose a medical condition causing eye pain are,

  • Slit Lamp Technique - A special microscope attached with a slit lamp will be used to study the inner layers of the eye.

  • Dilation Drops - Dilation eye drops will be used to dilate the pupil, to clearly assess the inner layers of the eye.

  • Tonometry - The eyes will be numbed before the procedure using drops. The tonometer is used to measure the fluid pressure of the eyes (i.e) the intraocular pressure. This method is used in cases, suggestive of glaucoma.

How Are the Conditions Causing Eye Pain Treated Generally?

Treatment depends on the condition causing eye pain. Common treatments include,

  • It is best not to strain the eyes too much. Screen time can be reduced. As the doctor suggested, warm or cold compresses can be followed.

  • If the cause is found to be a chemical splash or a foreign body, flushing the eyes can be done.

  • In case of conjunctivitis, antibacterial eye drops or oral antibiotics will be prescribed. Pain can be treated with antibiotics.

  • In case of severe infection, corticosteroids will be prescribed.

  • In cases where repair is required, surgery will be done. For example, glaucoma needs to be corrected with surgery to improve eye drainage.


Various conditions can cause eye pain. Some can be a very mild condition, and some can be serious. Therefore, it is always important to look for signs and symptoms; if a severe warning is seen, it is better to seek medical care immediately to avoid complications.

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Dr. Shikha Gupta
Dr. Shikha Gupta

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)


eye pain
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