Eye Pain: Causes Symptoms and Treatment

On many occasions you might have felt dull, pulsating or stabbing aches in your eyes. Sometimes these pains get so bad that they begin to interfere with your daily life and cause a lot of discomfort. The medical term given to this condition is ophthalmalgia. It refers to any kind of pain originating within the eye or on its surface. Based on the location of pain, eye pain is classified into two categories – orbital pain and ocular pain. Orbital pain is the pain on the outer surface of the cornea while ocular pain originates from inner parts of the eye. Most eye pains accompany other symptoms which vary from patient to patient and are subject to cause of the pain. These include:

Changes in vision

Sensitivity to light

Redness in the cornea



Discharge from the eyes

Inflammation on the eye lids

Gritty feeling on the outer membrane


When our eyes get tired, there is a likelihood of mild pain in the eyes. This kind of pain does not evoke major medical concern and heals on its own. Eye pain can also be caused by problems in the eyes or the surrounding structures including conjunctiva, nerves, muscles, cornea, iris, eyelids and the eye ball. These problems manifest in the form of eye disorders that trigger pain in the eyes. Here is a list of eye disorders that cause eye pain.


The inflammation that takes place on the outer membrane of the eye in conjunctivitis often appears with pain in that region. This condition stems from an allergic reaction or eye infection.


Pain in eyes can also be caused by irritation on the eye surface if a foreign object like sand or splinter gets in your eye.  Wearing contact lenses may also contribute to irritation and pain in the eye.


Any injury to the cornea, iris and other structures in the eye can lead to eye pain. If the injury is serious, pain may be severe and accompanied by lowered vision. Such injuries should be treated as a medical emergency.


Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelids which causes swelling on the eye lids and surrounding eye structure. This swelling contributes to pain in the eyes.


Stye appears as a swollen area of skin around the eyelashes.  It stems from inflammation of the eye lash follicle or blocked oil glands resulting in pain in the eyes.


Patients with glaucoma experience an increased pressure on the eye due to insufficient drainage of intraocular fluids.  This pressure causes pain in the eye and can damage the optic nerve if treatment is not sought in time.

Optic Neuritis

In some cases, eye pain stems from the inflammation of the optic nerve that connects the eye with brain. This inflammation results from infection inside the optic nerve or due to nerve diseases.


Sinusitis is the infection of the sinuses.  This infection puts pressure around the sinuses and eyes which causes headache and pain in the eyes.


The inflammation of iris, a thin membrane at the centre of the eye. It may arise from trauma to the iris and other conditions including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasis, Reiter syndrome, Lyme disease, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, herpes simplex and herpes zoster.

Eye Pain Causes Symptoms and Treatment


Pain behind the eyes may be brought on by migraine. Symptoms include temporary loss of vision on one or both eyes coupled with appearance of flashes of light or other geometric patterns in the visual field.


Most cases of eye pain are not a cause for major concern and can be managed at home.  If you experience excruciating pain accompanied with sudden changes in vision or loss of vision, consider it a medical emergency and seek treatment immediately by an opthalmologist to prevent damage to your eyes and vision. Here are some treatment options for managing eye pain.


If an external irritant gets inside your eye and causes pain, flushing your eyes with saline water helps in getting rid of the irritant and reduces pain.

Warm Compresses

Warm compresses are useful in providing relief from eye pain caused by conditions like dry eye, blepharitis, stye and glaucoma. They help in controlling inflammation on eye lids and relax muscles around the eyes.

Eye Pain: Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Cool Compresses

Cool compresses are great for relaxing sore eyes. They help in minimizing pain that results from eye injury and conjunctivitis by fixing damage caused on blood vessels in the eyes.

Eye Drops

If your eye pain is caused by conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe anti-histamine or antibiotic eye drops to combat the inflammation and pain. Steroidal eye drops are prescribed if the pain is unbearable and accompanies burning sensation in the eyes.

Laser Therapy

If glaucoma is the reason behind the pain, it can be treated by laser therapy to reduce pain and prevent the optic nerve from getting damaged.










About the Author

Harvey Lee is a health and beauty blogger and works with various industry leading health and beauty product brands e.g. EyeSoothe: UK’s leading Eye Mask brand for various eye issues including Blepharitis, MGD, Dry eye syndrome and more. Harvey strongly recommends seeking physician opinion before replacing medication with natural or other non-clinical remedies.