Young Lady Squeezing Eyes

Have you ever experienced a sudden, unexpected bout of eye pain that left you squinting and rubbing your eyes for relief? Eye pain is a common complaint ranging from mild irritation to severe discomfort, often leaving us wondering what’s causing the issue. This comprehensive guide will explore the various causes of eye pain, including common and less common conditions, as well as lifestyle factors that can contribute to eye discomfort. By understanding these causes, you can take the necessary steps toward prevention and proper treatment, ensuring that your eyes remain healthy and pain-free.

Key Takeaways

  • Common causes of eye pain include conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, and foreign bodies in the eye.
  • Less common causes can include glaucoma, optic neuritis, uveitis & lifestyle factors such as stress or contact lens use.
  • Diagnosis and treatment involve a comprehensive evaluation with tailored treatments ranging from self-care strategies to prescription medications and surgery.

Common Eye Pain Causes

Various factors contribute to eye pain, with some causes more prevalent than others. Conditions such as conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, and foreign bodies in the eye are frequently encountered and responsible for most cases. Although these common causes can usually be managed with suitable care and medication, seeking medical attention is necessary for accurate diagnosis and complication prevention.

Understanding the symptoms and causes of these common eye problems can help you identify when to seek help and how to manage the discomfort. Subsequent sections will provide a more in-depth understanding of these common causes, elucidating their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment methods.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is a condition that affects the eye’s protective layer called the conjunctiva. This inflammation can lead to itching, redness, and discharge in the eye, causing discomfort and irritation. Conjunctivitis can be triggered by either an allergy or an infection, with bacterial conjunctivitis being characterized by a gritty, burning sensation in the eye, discharge or tears, swelling, itching, pink discoloration due to widened blood vessels, and light sensitivity.

For diagnosing and treating conjunctivitis, a healthcare provider evaluates the patient’s history, carries out a physical examination, and conducts an eye examination. Smears can be taken from the eyes for further testing in certain cases. The results of these tests will provide more information that an ophthalmologist can use to diagnose any eye issues. Treatment typically involves a course of antibiotic eye drops, which can help alleviate the discomfort and resolve the infection. Warm compresses can also be applied to the eye to reduce irritation and provide relief.

A red eye causing eye pain

Corneal Abrasions

Corneal abrasion, a cause of eye pain

Corneal abrasions are superficial scratches on the surface of the eye, which can cause significant eye pain, heightened light sensitivity, and difficulty performing daily activities like reading or driving. These abrasions can be caused by foreign particles such as sand or dust entering the eye, accidental scratches from a baby or pet, or even improperly cleaned contact lenses.

Standard treatment for corneal abrasions usually includes antibiotic eye drops and pain relief. Adhering to the prescribed treatment regimen is key to promoting proper healing and preventing complications like corneal infections. In some cases, an eye doctor may recommend applying a patch or using a special contact lens to protect the eye during the healing process.

Foreign Bodies in the Eye

Coreal Foreign Body, Metallic, eye pain

Foreign bodies in the eye refer to any object that may cause irritation or pain, such as a speck of dust, an eyelash, or a small piece of debris. The primary indication of a foreign body in the eye is the foreign body sensation, which can cause discomfort or even a corneal abrasion if not promptly addressed.

The suggested treatment for foreign bodies in the eye involves:

  • Rinsing the eye with artificial tears or clean tap water
  • If the foreign body resists easy removal or if the eye pain continues, immediate attention from an eye care professional becomes necessary.
  • An urgent care clinic or an ophthalmologist can administer drops to alleviate any pain and conduct a proper eye exam to ensure no further damage has occurred.

Less Common Eye Pain Causes

While the common causes mentioned earlier account for a large portion of eye pain cases, there are other, less frequent causes that can pose significant risks to eye health if left untreated. Conditions such as glaucoma, optic neuritis, and uveitis can cause severe eye pain and may require urgent medical attention and specialized treatment to prevent complications and preserve vision.

The subsequent sections will examine these less common causes of eye pain, offering an overview of their other symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment approaches.

Gaining knowledge about these conditions enables you to recognize the signs and seek immediate medical care when immediate medical attention is needed.


Glaucoma is an ocular condition characterized by optic nerve damage resulting from fluid accumulation. It can lead to intense eye pain and potential vision loss if left untreated. There are various risk factors associated with glaucoma, including:

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a particularly dangerous form of the condition. It causes sudden, intense ocular discomfort, redness, visual blurring, and perceiving halos and rainbows around luminaries.

Diagnosing glaucoma involves a thorough eye examination, which might include measuring intraocular pressure, assessing the optic nerve head, and performing visual field tests. Treatment for glaucoma typically involves the use of eye drops to reduce intraocular pressure, as well as oral or intravenous acetazolamide in cases of acute angle-closure glaucoma.

In some instances, laser treatment or surgery may be necessary to alleviate the pressure and prevent further damage to the optic nerve.

Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, which can cause vision loss and eye pain. The condition may be caused by multiple sclerosis, infections (such as cytomegalovirus, Lyme disease, and herpes), autoimmune diseases (like lupus and sarcoidosis), or inflammatory demyelination of the optic nerve. Signs of optic neuritis may include discomfort upon ocular motion and inflammation of the optic nerve.

Diagnosing optic neuritis typically involves a combination of clinical symptoms and diagnostic tests. Common symptoms include ocular pain with eye movement and transient vision loss in one eye. Diagnostic tests may include a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to evaluate the optic nerve and to exclude other potential diagnoses.

Treatment for optic neuritis usually involves high-dose corticosteroids, administered orally or via injection.


Uveitis is an inflammatory condition of the eye that can cause pain, redness, and blurred vision. This condition involves the inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye, which can lead to eye pain and potential vision loss if not addressed promptly. Symptoms of uveitis can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and may be associated with various underlying causes, such as infections, autoimmune diseases, or an injury to the eye.

Diagnosing uveitis typically involves a thorough eye examination, which may include assessing the patient’s medical history, conducting a physical examination, and performing an eye examination. In some cases, additional tests may be necessary to identify the cause of the inflammation.

Treatment for uveitis typically involves the use of prescription steroid eye drops or oral steroids, which can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Eye Pain Related to Lifestyle Factors

Aside from medical conditions, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to eye pain and discomfort. Excessive screen time, stress, and improper contact lens use are some common factors that can lead to eye strain, irritation, and even infections. By being aware of these factors and implementing self-care practices and proper habits, you can minimize the impact on your eyes and maintain good eye health.

In the following subsections, we will explore each of these lifestyle factors, discussing their effects on eye pain and providing tips for managing and alleviating discomfort.

Screen Time

A man suffering from computer screen induced eye pain.

Given the digital nature of our current world, many of us spend numerous hours before computer screens, smartphones, and other electronic devices. Prolonged screen time can lead to various effects on our eyes, including eye fatigue, dryness, and irritation, as well as decreased flexibility of focus and an increased risk of myopia. These symptoms are collectively referred to as digital eye strain, which can also cause double vision, headaches, and general tiredness.

Preventing eye strain and discomfort associated with screen time requires taking regular breaks and maintaining good eye hygiene. Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of eye strain:

  • Take regular breaks from staring at your screen and focus on something in the distance.
  • Blink frequently to keep your eyes lubricated.
  • Adjust the contrast, brightness, and positioning of your screen to reduce eye strain.
  • Avoid flickering screens, as they can cause eye fatigue.
  • Consider using blue light-blocking glasses or screen filters to protect your eyes from potentially harmful blue light emitted by digital devices.

By following these tips, you can help prevent eye strain and keep your eyes healthy while using screens.


While stress itself may not directly cause eye pain, it can certainly trigger headaches and other conditions that affect the eyes. Elevated adrenaline levels during times of stress can exert pressure on the eyes, resulting in blurred vision and discomfort. Stress may also contribute to eye strain, headaches, and other temporary eye-related issues.

Managing stress is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being, and it can also help alleviate eye discomfort. By incorporating stress reduction techniques such as meditation, relaxation, and regular exercise into your daily routine, you can enhance blood flow and circulation to the eyes, reduce tension in the eye muscles, and promote overall eye health.

Contact Lens Use

Contact lenses used to treat eye pain

Contact lenses are a popular and convenient alternative to glasses for many people. However, improper contact lens use can lead to eye irritation and infections, causing discomfort and potentially serious complications. The primary indicators of a contact lens-related eye infection include:

  • A gritty, burning sensation in the eye
  • Discharge or tears
  • Puffiness
  • Itching
  • Pink discoloration due to expanded blood vessels
  • Increased sensitivity to light

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to remove your contact lenses immediately and consult with an eye care professional.

Practicing good contact lens hygiene is essential in preventing eye irritation and infections associated with contact lens use. Here are some tips to follow when you wear contact lenses:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses.
  2. Clean and store your lenses in fresh solution each time you remove them.
  3. Replace your contact lens case regularly.
  4. Give your eyes a break from contact lenses by wearing glasses occasionally to maintain eye health and prevent complications.

Preventing Eye Pain

Preventing eye pain forms a critical part of sustaining good eye health. Some key strategies for avoiding eye pain include wearing protective eyewear, maintaining proper eye hygiene, and being cautious with chemicals and children’s toys. By following these guidelines, you can reduce the risk of eye injuries and pain, ensuring that your eyes remain healthy and comfortable.

The upcoming two sections will highlight the significance of protective eyewear and eye hygiene, along with offering tips to minimize the risk of eye pain stemming from chemicals and children’s toys.

Protective Eyewear

Wearing protective eyewear is crucial for preventing eye injuries and pain during various activities, such as sports, work, or handling chemicals. Protective eyewear, like safety glasses with side shields, face shields, and goggles, can help create a physical barrier between the eyes and potential hazards, reducing the risk of eye injuries.

Different types of protective eyewear are designed for specific activities and situations, so it’s essential to choose the right kind for your needs. If you wear prescription glasses, there are protective eyewear options designed to fit over your existing eyeglasses, providing comprehensive protection.

Regularly inspect your protective eyewear for scratches, damage, or ill-fitting components, and replace them as needed to ensure optimal protection.

Eye Hygiene

Maintaining proper eye hygiene is key to preventing eye pain and infections. One of the most critical aspects of eye hygiene is washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your eyes or handling contact lenses. This simple habit can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting germs and bacteria to your eyes, preventing infections such as conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers.

Other important eye hygiene practices include:

  • Cleaning your contact lenses according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Replacing your contact lens case regularly
  • Avoiding sharing eye makeup, washcloths, or towels with others, as this can also contribute to the spread of germs and bacteria that can cause eye infections.

Diagnosing and Treating Eye Pain

Diagnosis and treatment of eye pain are vital for the right care and management of different eye conditions. The diagnosis process typically involves:

  • A thorough examination, including an eye exam
  • Medical history review
  • Possibly imaging tests or blood tests, depending on the suspected cause of the eye pain.

Once the cause has been identified, a tailored treatment plan can be developed to address the specific issue and alleviate discomfort. Treatment options for eye pain can range from self-care strategies, such as warm compresses and over-the-counter eye drops, to prescription medications and surgery in more severe cases. The appropriate treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the eye pain, as well as the individual patient’s needs and medical history.

Diagnosis Process

Diagnosing eye pain commences with a comprehensive evaluation that may involve:

  • an eye exam
  • medical history review
  • imaging tests
  • blood tests

These diagnostic tools help healthcare providers determine the underlying cause of the eye pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, can be particularly useful in diagnosing conditions like optic neuritis and anterior uveitis. Blood tests may also be employed to diagnose certain conditions, including uveitis, glaucoma, and optic neuritis. It’s essential to provide your healthcare provider with accurate and detailed information about your symptoms and medical history to ensure a correct diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

Treatment Options

The suitable treatment for eye pain hinges on the cause and severity of the condition. Some common treatment options include self-care strategies, such as warm compresses and over-the-counter eye drops, as well as prescription medications for more severe cases. For example, antibiotic eye drops may be prescribed for bacterial conjunctivitis, while high-dose corticosteroids might be used to treat optic neuritis.

In some instances, surgery may be necessary to address the underlying cause of eye pain, such as glaucoma-related eye pain. Treatment plans should be tailored to the individual patient’s needs and medical history, to alleviate discomfort and prevent complications.


In conclusion, eye pain can be a distressing and disruptive experience, but understanding the various causes and treatment options can help you manage and prevent discomfort. From common causes like conjunctivitis and corneal abrasions to less common conditions like glaucoma and optic neuritis, being informed about these issues can help you recognize the signs and seek appropriate care. Additionally, by considering lifestyle factors such as screen time, stress, and contact lens use, and by practicing good eye hygiene and wearing protective eyewear, you can protect your eyes and maintain good eye health. Remember, your eyes are precious, so take care of them and seek help when needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes pain in one eye?

Eye pain can be caused by injuries, infections, inflammation and contact lens issues. Treatment may involve eye drops, shielding your eyes or surgery.

How can I relieve eye pain?

To relieve eye pain, try changing the light, taking breaks, reducing screen time, using artificial tears, wearing the right eyewear, applying a warm compress, and applying a cold compress.

When should I be worried about eye pain?

If you experience severe or unusual eye pain accompanied by a headache, fever, sensitivity to light, changes in vision, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical attention right away.

Can stress cause eye pain?

Stress can indirectly cause eye pain by triggering other conditions that affect the eyes, such as headaches, eye strain and blurred vision.

What are some treatment options for eye pain caused by conjunctivitis?

Treatment for eye pain caused by conjunctivitis typically involves the use of antibiotic eye drops, warm compresses, and proper eye hygiene.


  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology: “What Is Scleritis?”
    This article provides information on scleritis, a serious inflammatory condition of the eye that can cause severe eye pain.
  2. Mayo Clinic: “Uveitis”
    An article detailing uveitis, an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, which can cause eye pain and can be associated with other diseases.
  3. National Health Service (NHS): “Glaucoma”
    This resource offers an overview of glaucoma, including symptoms like eye pain, which can be unexpected if the condition is not diagnosed early.
  4. American Migraine Foundation: “Ocular Migraine Symptoms”
    This article explains ocular migraines, which can cause visual disturbances and sometimes eye pain.
  5. American Optometric Association: “Dry Eye”
    Dry eye is a common condition that can cause unexpected eye pain. This article discusses the condition and potential relief options.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Contact Lens-Related Eye Infections”
    This resource provides information on how improper use of contact lenses can lead to eye infections that result in eye pain.
  7. Cleveland Clinic: “Corneal Abrasion: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments”
    This article covers the causes, symptoms, and treatments of corneal abrasions, which can cause significant eye pain.
  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Optic Neuritis”
    A detailed article on optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve that can cause eye pain, especially with eye movement.

These references are from reputable organizations and medical institutions, providing reliable information that you can use to support your blog content.


Photo graph of Dr. Conlon operating with loops on.

Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.

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