Eye Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Most people sooner or later face eye pain. Sometimes it goes away by itself, but sometimes it can signalize more serious problems. If you feel eye pain, consult your eye doctor who determines your problem and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Common causes of eye pain

Discomfort or eye pain may be caused by problems in the eye or its structures such as:

  • cornea – it is the transparent covering of the front part of the eye, refracting light rays;
  • sclera – it is a stiff white fibrous eyeball covering that protects and strengthens the eyeball;
  • conjunctiva – it is a very thin transparent connective tissue film that connects the eyelids and the eyeball;
  • iris – it is the colored part of the eye with the pupil in the middle;
  • the eyelid is a bony cavity that contains the eye and the muscles of the eye;
  • the moving muscles of the eye – are these muscles who surrounds the eye;
  • optic nerves – are the nerves that transmit visual information and nerve impulses to the brain;
  • eyelids are the outer covering of the eye and distribute moisture over the surface of the eye.

Possible eye problems:

Blepharitis. Inflammation or infection of the eyelid causing eye pain or irritation.

Conjunctivitis. Inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by allergies or infections (viral or bacterial). The blood vessels in the conjunctiva become congested, which usually leads to the white part of the eye turning red. Symptoms could also include itching and cracking.

Corneal erosion. Scratches on the cornea are called erosion and may be extremely painful. The cornea can be damaged by your fingers, a tree branch or even a tennis ball. With antibiotic eye drops prescribed by a doctor, corneal erosion usually disappears without more serious consequences.

Corneal infections (keratitis). Corneal inflammation or inflection is caused by bacterial or viral infections. These infections are the most often associated with wearing contact lenses at night or that have not been properly cleaned and disinfected.

Foreign bodies. Whatever gets in your eyes – dirt, plant debris or contact lens peel – is usually just irritating to the eye and is easily flushed with tears or water. However, if the foreign body is not removed from the eye, it can cause corneal erosion.

Glaucoma. This is an eye condition that usually has no pre-existing symptoms. However, in the case of narrow-angle glaucoma, the pressure is suddenly felt in the eye. Symptoms of glaucoma include severe eye pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, and poor eyesight. If you experience these symptoms, you should visit your eye doctor immediately, otherwise, you may become blind.

Iritis or uveitis. Inflammation of the eye that can be caused by trauma, infections or autoimmune diseases. Symptoms: pain, red eyes, and often reduced vision.

Optic neuritis. It is an inflammation of the optic nerve that connects the eyeball and the brain. It is often caused by multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune diseases and infections. Symptoms: loss of vision as well as severe discomfort looking from side to side.

Sinusitis. Infection in one of the sinuses, which can cause pressure behind the eyes and pain in one or both eyes.

Barley. Inflammation of the eyelid follicle and adjacent eyelid glands.

Other symptoms

Eye pain may occur by itself or in combination with other symptoms such as:

  • Impaired vision;
  • Eye mucus (may be transparent, thick or fluffy);
  • Foreign body feeling – imagined or real, that something is in the eye;
  • Headache;
  • Sensitivity to light;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Red eyes;
  • Tearing;
  • The eyelids stuck together due to mucus after sleeping

Symptoms that accompany painful eyes can help determine the cause of the pain.

Examinations to diagnose eye pain

If you feel pain in the eyes, do not hesitate to see an eye doctor, especially if you have reduced vision, headache, nausea or vomiting. Eye care professionals will take all necessary measures to determine the cause of eye pain:

  • The slit-lamp examination uses a bright light to view the entire structure of the eye;
  • The expanding drops expand the pupil so that the doctor may examine the bottom of the eye;
  • An intraocular pressure device (topo meter) is used for measuring intraocular pressure that can detect high-pressure caused by glaucoma.


An appointment with an ophthalmologist is the only way to find out the causes of eye pain and get the right treatment. Your vision is priceless. Protect it, respond to eye pain seriously.