Eye Pain: Do I Need an Eye Exam?

Are you feeling pain in your eye, but not sure what it is? It could be a sign of a serious eye problem.

The eyes, usually silent and without discomfort, serve as our windows to the world, effortlessly shifting focus and glancing in myriad directions daily.

Should you find yourself with eye discomfort, it’s crucial to reach out to your eye care specialist without delay to identify the root cause and secure the optimal solution.

Eye discomfort can range from surface level to deep within. Below, we outline several prevalent causes for eye discomfort.

Superficial eye pain

Surface-level eye discomfort, often referred to as superficial eye pain, typically arises from infections, injuries, or the intrusion of foreign materials. Remedies often include the use of eye drops or similar treatments.

Frequent triggers of such discomfort include:

  1. Foreign Materials in the Eye

A leading cause of eye discomfort is the entry of external particles into the eye.

Common culprits like sand, dust, eyelashes, or cosmetic products can trigger symptoms like redness, irritation, excessive tearing, and discomfort in the eye.

In many cases, the eye naturally expels these irritants through tears. However, if self-cleaning doesn’t alleviate the issue, a gentle rinse with water or the use of artificial tears can be beneficial.

Avoid rubbing your eyes if you suspect something is in them to prevent potential scratches to the eye’s surface.

  1. Eyelid Inflammation

Eyelid inflammation, also known as blepharitis, arises when the oil glands located at the eyelid margins become blocked, leading to irritation and swollen eyelids. This condition can cause discomfort around the eyes.

Thankfully, various treatment options exist to alleviate blepharitis. Consulting an ophthalmologist is recommended for guidance on the most effective treatment plan.

  1. Eyelid Infection(Sty)

An eyelid infection, commonly referred to as a sty, develops when the eyelid glands are infected, resulting in a painful lump on the eyelid. The surrounding area may also feel sensitive or sore to the touch.

Treatment for a sty can vary depending on its severity and its impact on your sight. An ophthalmologist might prescribe antibiotic creams or administer a steroid injection to diminish inflammation. For less severe cases, allowing the sty to heal naturally might be advised.

It’s crucial not to attempt draining a sty on your own to avoid spreading the infection or causing lasting damage to the eyelid. In cases where the sty does not improve with medication and interferes with vision, a medical professional may perform a drainage procedure in a controlled setting.

  1. Corneal Conditions and Dry Eye Syndrome

Situated at the forefront of the eye, the cornea is a transparent, curved surface that plays a pivotal role in vision. Neglecting symptoms of dry eye can lead to serious consequences for the cornea, including damage and scarring, which are often sources of significant discomfort.

Corneal injuries, whether from accidental scratches by foreign bodies or from chemical exposures, are known to cause intense pain. While minor scratches on the cornea can heal on their own, eye care professionals may prescribe treatments to ward off infection and alleviate discomfort.

Severe injuries to the cornea, such as ulcers or other significant issues, demand urgent medical intervention due to the risk of extreme pain and potential vision loss.

Immediate action is required in cases of chemical contact with the eye; rinsing with cold water and seeking prompt medical evaluation are critical steps to prevent permanent damage.

  1. Issues with Contact Lens Usage

Incorrect handling or overuse of contact lenses can lead to discomfort and pain. It’s essential to follow best practices for lens care, including not exceeding the recommended wear time, and ensuring lenses are cleaned and stored correctly after each use. Adhering to the replacement schedule, whether for daily or monthly lenses, is crucial to avoid over-wearing that can strain the eyes.

For any uncertainties regarding the maintenance, cleaning, or usage of contact lenses, consulting with an eye care specialist is recommended to ensure the health and comfort of your eyes.

  1. Understanding Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, widely recognized as pink eye, arises from an infection of the conjunctiva, the delicate membrane that covers the eyeball’s front and the inner surface of the eyelids. This condition can stem from bacterial or viral infections and is sometimes triggered by allergies.

The inflammation of the conjunctiva leads to discomfort, making the eye appear red and feel irritated.

Typically, a viral cause of conjunctivitis results in significant tearing, whereas a bacterial origin is often marked by a yellowish discharge from the eye.

For insights into the specific cause of your eye discomfort and advice on appropriate treatments, consulting with an eye care professional is highly recommended.


Internal eye pain

Internal eye discomfort, often referred to as orbital pain, is a condition characterized by sensations of aching, stabbing, or sharp pain within the eye, potentially necessitating comprehensive medical intervention for relief.

Key sources of internal eye discomfort include:

  1. Glaucoma

Glaucoma represents a critical eye condition where the optic nerve incurs damage from excessively high pressure within the eye. Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to significant vision impairment, notably a condition referred to as ‘Tunnel Vision’.

In addition to eye discomfort, a specific type of glaucoma, known as closed-angle glaucoma, may induce intense nausea, vomiting, headaches, and sudden vision deterioration.

Closed-angle glaucoma, alternatively called narrow-angle glaucoma, emerges from a swift escalation in the pressure inside the eye. This pressure increase triggers severe eye discomfort and constitutes a medical emergency, requiring prompt intervention to avert irreversible vision damage.

  1. Incidents of Eye Penetration

When an external item, like a piece of metal or glass, breaches the eye’s outer defenses and injures its sensitive internal structures, this is known as a penetrating eye injury. Such incidents can lead to significant pain and urgently require medical attention.

It’s critical to resist the urge to remove the foreign object on your own and instead, seek immediate help from an emergency medical facility.

  1. The Onset of Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis involves the inflammation of the optic nerve, responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain. This inflammation can lead to vision loss and discomfort within the eye.

Frequently, optic neuritis is linked with autoimmune conditions, like multiple sclerosis, or can result from specific bacterial or viral infections.

  1. Understanding Iritis

Iritis, or anterior uveitis, is an uncommon ailment characterized by the inflammation of the iris, the part of the eye responsible for its color, whether blue, green, hazel, or any other hue. This condition leads to internal eye discomfort.

Despite being the most frequently encountered form of uveitis, iritis is relatively benign and can manifest in either one or both eyes. It often develops in individuals who are otherwise in good health.


When is eye pain an emergency?

Eye discomfort should always be taken seriously and warrants prompt medical attention.

Should you experience eye pain coupled with symptoms like foreign objects impacting or entering the eye, vision impairment, headaches, or feelings of nausea or vomiting, it’s crucial to seek emergency medical assistance immediately.

For any form of eye pain, it’s advisable to arrange an urgent consultation with an eye care specialist in your vicinity.


Remember, in the event of experiencing discomfort in your eyes, reaching out to your eye doctor without delay is imperative.