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Eye Pain

Also called: Eyeache, Eye Pressure, Ocular Pain, Eye Discomfort, Ophthalmalgia

- Summary
- About eye pain
- Other related pain areas
- Potential causes
- Common tests
- Relief options for eye pain
- Prevention methods
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Brad Oren, M.D.


Eye pain can originate in the eye, eye socket or surrounding structures. It can also be due to referred pain from another part of the body. It can be characterized in a variety of ways – gritty, sharp, dull, burning, shooting or stabbing pain or as the sensation of a foreign body in the eye.

The complex structure of the eye makes it susceptible to painful conditions. Membranes protect the eye and its structures, many of which have multiple nerve endings. The presence of so many receptors enables the eye to process information for sight. They also react quickly to protect the eye. A tiny particle of dirt can cause extreme pain or scar the surface of the eye.

Many conditions may cause eye pain. Some are serious, sight-Migraines are severe headaches often accompanied by vision changes (aura), nausea and/or vomiting.threatening conditions such as a form of glaucoma. Others are the result of allergies, irritation, infections, trauma or conditions outside the eye, such as migraines, other headaches, sinusitis or certain forms of arthritis. Even ill-fitting or wrongly prescribed contact lenses or glasses can cause eye pain.

To determine the cause of the eye pain, an ophthalmologist (eye M.D.) or other physician will examine the eyes and may perform several visual tests.

Treatment for eye pain depends on its cause. It may include flushing the eye out with water, taking medications such as antibiotic eye drops or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), applying warm or cold compresses, or surgery. 

Some causes of eye pain can be prevented. People should wear eye protection for certain household and yard chores, hobbies, sports and work activities. Avoidance of allergens, irritants and potentially harmful substances can avert irritation and eye pain. Hygiene that includes regular hand washing will minimize the transmission of germs from hands to eyes.

If pain does develop, it is best not to rub the eyes because this may worsen the condition. Finally, it is advisable to wear sunglasses with ultraviolet protection when outside.

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Review Date: 12-01-2006

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