Eye pain (ocular pain) is also called ophthalmalgia and is a common complaint. It may be perceived as a throbbing, burning, or itching sensation. Eye pain may be unilateral or in both eyes. It may be due to something as trivial as eye strain or as serious as brain infection. If the eye pain is accompanied by a blurring of vision, diplopia (double vision), vision loss, severe headache, vomiting, giddiness, fever, neck stiffness, or injury, it’s advised to visit the nearest emergency room (ER) as soon as possible.
14 Common causes of eye pain
The 14 common causes of eye pain are:
- Eye strain: Eye strain is the most common cause of eye pain or eye soreness. Prolonged screen time, too much near work, dehydration, exposure to bright lights, or prolonged sun exposure can cause throbbing pain in the eye.
- Foreign body: A foreign body in the eye could be anything small like an eyelash, dust, makeup, or larger penetrating particles of metal, etc. The foreign body removal should ideally be performed by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Foreign body in the eye can cause irritation, redness, watery eyes, blurring of vision, and pain.
- Conjunctivitis: The conjunctiva is the part of the eye on the underside of the eyelid. It can become infected and inflamed due to allergies or infection. It’s also called conjunctivitis (pink eye). It can cause itching, redness, and watering of the eyes.
- Contact lens irritation: Wearing contact lenses overnight or not disinfecting contact lenses can cause irritation or infection, leading to eye pain.
- Injury: Injuries can occur due to physical trauma or chemicals (chemical burns) or thermal burns (during welding). Injuries can cause significant pain, brining, itching, watering of eyes, and swelling and can affect vision.
- Blepharitis: This occurs when the oil glands on the eyelid’s edge, including the eyelashes, become infected or inflamed.
- Sty: A blepharitis infection can create a nodule or raised bump on the eyelid called a sty.
- Glaucoma: This condition occurs due to an increase in eye pressure. Patients have headaches, nausea, and decreased vision. This is a serious condition that needs immediate attention.
- Optic neuritis: It is inflammation of the optic nerve (the nerve that connects the back of the eyeball to the brain).
- Sinusitis: Infection of the sinuses can cause pressure and pain behind the eyes.
- Migraines: Migraines may be associated with eye pain, eye-watering, headaches, and vomiting.
- Iritis: It is inflammation of the iris (colored part of the eye).
- Dacryocystitis: It is inflammation of the tear glands.
- Refractive errors: Refractive errors such as myopia (near-sightedness) and hypermetropia (far-sightedness) or change in eye power can cause eye strain, headache, and eye pain.
10 Home remedies to reduce or prevent eye pain and eyestrain
Following are the home remedies to reduce or prevent eye pain and eyestrain:
- Warm compress: A warm compress can help relieve pain and discomfort, especially pain associated with eye infections, such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis, or a sty. A clean, warm, moist towel may be placed over the eyes. This can also help clear out debris, pus, and dried-up crusts.
- Over the counter (OTC) medication: OTC medication, such as antihistamines and acetaminophen, can be used to treat allergies and/or eye pain.
- Using artificial tears: OTC artificial tears can help prevent and relieve dry eyes, which can cause eye pain and flush out foreign bodies on the eye surface. Lubricating drops that do not contain preservatives can be used as often as needed. If the drops contain preservatives, they should not be used more than four times a day. Eye drops that reduce redness should not be used because they may worsen the symptoms and cause other serious conditions, making them difficult to diagnose.
- Using a humidifier: A humidifier increases the moisture content in the air, helping the eyes to stay moist, reducing dryness, discomfort, and pain.
- Avoiding pollutants: It’s advised to stay away from cigarette smoke, fire smoke, and industrial gases. In the case of work-related exposure, one may consider wearing protective eyewear at work and using lubricating eye drops without preservatives to keep the eyes moist and prevent and reduce eye discomfort. It’s advised to avoid makeup till the eye heals.
- Changing eyewear: Those who wear glasses or contacts and work at a computer may consider changing to glasses or contact lenses designed specifically for computer work. Change in eye power can also cause eye pain; hence, the eye should be tested and appropriate glasses or contact lenses need to be worn.
- Sun protection: Exposure to direct sun or other bright lights can cause eye dryness and pain, as well as worsen any existing pain. Hence, it is advised to use sunglasses and try to avoid sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day, that is, 11 AM to 4 PM.
- Adjust the lighting: While watching TV, it is advised to watch TV in a soft-lit room to reduce eye strain. While reading, a light source may be used to flash the light on to the page.
- Taking breaks: When doing near work like reading or fine art and crafts, taking occasional breaks and resting the eyes can help reduce and prevent eye pain.
- Limiting screen time: Prolonged screen time can increase eye strain and pain. Hence, it is advised to take regular breaks from the screen to rest the eyes.
Eye Health Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Shiel WC. Eye Pain: Symptoms & Signs. https://www.medicinenet.com/eye_pain/symptoms.htm
Optometrists Network. Natural Remedies for Dry Eyes. June 1, 2020. https://www.optometrists.org/dry-eye/natural-remedies-for-dry-eyes/