Pain in the eye (that is not due to injury) may be described as a burning, throbbing, aching, or stabbing sensation in or around the eye. It may also feel as if there is a foreign body in the eye.
Ophthalmalgia; Pain - eye
A feeling of tiredness in the eyes or some discomfort after a long period of work (eye strain) are generally minor problems and do not really qualify as eye pain. This may be due to an improper prescription for glasses or a muscle imbalance.
Pain in the eye, while not a common complaint, can be an important symptom that should be evaluated and treated if pain does not improve. It is important to try to describe the pain as much as possible.
A wide variety of disorders can cause pain in or around the eye. In general, if the pain is persistent, severe, or associated with decreased vision, seek medical attention. Any severe pain or pain associated with vision loss should be considered an emergency and seen immediately by a doctor.
Some of the problems that can cause eye pain are:
- a problem in the eye itself (an infection, irritation, or injury such as a corneal abrasion)
- a migraine headache (severe pain behind the eye)
- sinus problems (pain either above or below the eye)
- contact lens complications
- eye surgery
- a stye (hordeolum) can create eye pain that increases as the stye grows
- conjunctivitis (pink eye) or any inflammation of the upper and lower lids
- pain in both eyes, particularly upon exposure to bright light (photophobia) (common with many viral infections such as the flu; will go away as the infection improves)
- glaucoma (a less-common type called narrow angle glaucoma can be very painful)
If the problem is eye strain, rest should relieve the discomfort. If you think your eye pain is due to wearing contact lenses, avoid wearing the lenses for a few days and see if the pain goes away. If the pain is severe, call your doctor.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
- there is pain, redness, swelling, discharge, or pressure in the eye(s) that persists -- particularly if it affects vision
- the pain is severe (call immediately) or if it continues for more than 2 days
- the eye pain is not associated with a viral illness or eyestrain
- the pain is associated with medical problems such as a history of herpes infections or a new rash
- you have an immune-system deficiency
- you have had recent surgery
Your doctor will check your vision, eye movements, and the back of the eye with an ophthalmoscope. If there is major concern, you should see an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specializes in eye problems).
To better understand the source of the pain, your doctor may ask:
- Are both eyes involved?
- Is the pain in the eye or around the eye?
- Does it feel like something is in your eye?
- Does your eye burn or throb?
- Did the pain begin suddenly?
- Is the pain worse when you move your eyes?
- What other symptoms do you have?
The following diagnostic tests may be performed:
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