Eye pain can be severe, aching, or throbbing. You might feel like your eye has something in it.
Along with pain, you may have eye redness Eye Redness Sometimes the white part of your eye turns red. Usually this happens because small blood vessels on the surface of your eye swell with extra blood. Sometimes it's because some of these small... read more or other symptoms, such as blurry vision Blurry Vision Blurry vision is when you don't see as clearly or sharply as you once did. It's the most common vision problem. Blurry vision is different from loss of vision. Loss of vision means you become... read more or a bulging eye Eyes, Bulging Bulging or protruding of one or both eyes is called proptosis or exophthalmos. Exophthalmos is usually used when describing bulging eyes caused by Graves disease, a disorder causing overactivity... read more . Your pain may be worse when you're in bright light.
What causes eye pain?
The most common causes of eye pain are problems with your cornea. Your cornea is the clear layer at the front of your eye. It's sensitive to pain.
The most common causes of eye pain are:
A scratched or infected cornea
Something in your eye
Other eye problems that cause pain include:
Contact lens keratitis—a problem caused by wearing your contact lenses too long
Herpes zoster ophthalmicus Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus Herpes zoster ophthalmicus is a reactivated infection of the eye caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. Symptoms include pain and tingling of the... read more —a shingles infection that affects your eye
Infection inside the eye—this is most common if you've recently had eye surgery or an eye injury
Inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis Optic Neuritis Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve. Multiple sclerosis is the most common cause. Loss of vision may develop, and there may be pain with eye movement. Magnetic resonance imaging... read more )—a mild pain that hurts when your eye moves around
Problems in other parts of your body can also cause eye pain, such as:
Sinus infection Sinusitis Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses, most commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection or by an allergy. Some of the most common symptoms of sinusitis are pain, tenderness, nasal congestion... read more —sinuses are the air-filled spaces behind your cheeks and forehead
When should I see a doctor about eye pain?
See a doctor right away if you have intense eye pain, or eye pain along with any of these warning signs:
A red eye
Seeing halos around lights
Fever, chills, tiredness, or muscle aches
Unable to see as clearly as usual (less sharpness)
A bulging eye
Unable to move your eye in all directions (right, left, up, and down)
Severe eye pain can lead to vision loss. See a doctor right away—don't wait.
If you have a little eye pain with no warning signs, or if you feel like there’s something in your eye, your eye pain usually isn't serious. You can wait a day or 2 to see if your pain goes away on its own. If it doesn't, see a doctor.
What will happen at my doctor visit?
Doctors will ask questions about your symptoms and look at your eyes and eyelids. Usually they will:
Check your vision with an eye chart
Put some liquid drops in your eye (you may have a burning feeling that lasts a few seconds)
Look into your eye using a special magnifying light (the light is very bright)
Measure the pressure in your eye (there are different ways to do this, but none of them hurt)
If doctors think there's something in your eye, they may briefly turn your eyelids inside out to look more closely in your eye. This may feel a little strange or uncomfortable, but it doesn't hurt. You may have blood tests or x-rays if doctors think you may have an infection behind your eyeball.
How do doctors treat eye pain?
Doctors will treat the cause of your eye pain. For example, they’ll give you medicine if you have an infection.
You may need to take prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers until the pain stops. Even though there are medicines that can numb your eye for a little while, doctors don't like you to use these at home. That's because if your eye is numb, you won't be able to tell if your problem is getting worse.