General Health

Eye Pain: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Eye pain is frequent, but not always a serious issue. It’s so prevalent that over 59% of American adults who work an office job, state they experience eye pain almost every day, stated the US Vision Council.  

In many cases, the pain dissipates on its own and doesn’t need any meds or unique treatments. But, for others, eye discomfort can get progressively worse and require urgent treatment. Depending on the type of pain you are experiencing, the discomfort will vary. 

What most people don’t realize is that pain in the eyes is divided into two distinct categories: ocular and orbital pain. Ocular pain appears on the outer layer of the eye or the surface of the skin, while the orbital one pops up on the eye’s inner sections.

Here, we will take a closer look at these distinct types of eye pain causes, treatments, and preventive methods. We also included a handy guide on when to contact your doctor in case of an emergency. So, let’s get right to it.  

 

What Triggers Ocular Pain?

The moment you experience pain in the eyes, you should figure out what you are dealing with. If the discomfort is the result of ocular pain, you can quickly recognize it from the symptoms.

It is often accompanied by an itchy, scratchy, and burning sensation. It is the result of irritation from trauma, infection, or a foreign object. 

Trauma

The cornea, the clear area that covers the entire eye, is vulnerable to harm. Even the slightest abrasion can leave a significant impact. But, in case of serious trauma, the irritants can cause massive discomfort and pain, which will make the whole healing process challenging to bear. 

This is usually the result of flash or chemical burns. Anything that comes in contact with the eyes and burns the sclera (the white section of the eyes) can leave a lasting impact on vision health. 

In cases such as these, water won’t be enough to soothe the aches and calm the symptoms. Patients would have to receive proper treatment and remove the irritants that pose a threat to the eye.  

Eye Infection

The eye tissues (conjunctiva) are susceptible to infections and inflammation. They often get irritated due to an illness or allergy. Some of these include:

  • Conjunctivitis

  • Blepharitis

  • Sty

In the case of conjunctivitis, the tissues under the eyelid become sore and swollen. The infection causes an itch, red eyes, and discharge. For some individuals, it can lead to a pink eye.

A similar effect happens when a person experiences Blepharitis. The condition infects the edges of the eyelids and makes them inflamed. 

As a result, you will experience aches and discomfort. In the long run, this infection can create a bump under the eyelid, known as a sty. The pain will then get progressively worse since the skin will be very vulnerable, tender, and weak to touch. 

Foreign Object

Makeup, eyelash extensions, contact lenses, dust, dirt, etc. are all foreign irritants. When either of them come in contact with the eyes and exposes them to bacteria, that’s when people start to experience severe pain and discomfort, associated with eye redness, inflammation, and a watery eye. 

 

What Triggers Orbital Pain?

Orbital pain is recognized by the stinging, pulsating, stabbing, throbbing, and grainy sensations. The pain is more uncomfortable and pressing, and can interfere with your daily life. It requires in-depth treatment and proper management. This pain is often the result of glaucoma, sinusitis, optic neuritis, migraines, injuries, etc. 

Glaucoma

When there is pressure in the eyes that slowly keeps increasing, it could be a sign of glaucoma. The pressuring sensations are also accompanied by headaches, vomiting, and blurry vision. 

This eye problem could also be the reason behind the eye pain. It creates more pain, discomfort, and eye pressure than a typical infection. But, what not many people realize is that if you leave it untreated, it could result in permanent vision loss. 

Sinusitis

Not many people think that a sinus infection could also result in eye pain. But it’s more than doable. When the sinuses are infected. Usually, from allergies, they build up pressure behind the eyes. This pressure eventually turns into pain, which makes the throbbing more powerful. 

Optic Neuritis

This is another contributor to pain in the eyes. It interacts with the nerve endings and directly impacts the optic nerve. When the eyes get infected, the nerves are inflamed, which exposes them to other more severe infections.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

This chronic condition causes constant and prolonged pain. It damages the trigeminal nerve and affects sensation. 

Migraines

A migraine headache has a drastic effect on the entire nervous system. Since it influences all the pain receptors, people experience eye pain as a side effect of the chronic condition. The side effect can be extremely debilitating and draining. 

Injuries

If something were to penetrate the eye, it would cause pain. This pain can radiate and result in a headache, or it will pass on its own. 

 

When Is Urgent Treatment for Eye Pain Necessary?  

Pain in the eyes is not usually a cause for concern. In most cases, the discomfort dissipates on its own.

However, for some individuals, it would mean they need to seek medical attention immediately. To recognize the signs, pay attention to the following factors:

  • Constant, prolonged, and debilitating pain in the eyes


  • Exposure to chemicals or trauma


  • Pain followed by nausea and abdominal issues.

  • Increased eye sensitivity that makes you unable to touch your eye

  • Damaged artery

Some of the more common reasons people get medical treatment are after experiencing trauma to the eye. The scrapes and cuts affect the cornea (often referred to as corneal abrasion), and the wound makes it difficult to see. When the pain becomes hard to cope with, that’s when people seek treatment. 

Another clear indicator is the fluid in the eye. It’s normal to experience a dry eye from time to time. But, if that dryness persists and is accompanied by debilitating pain, vomiting, redness, and blurred vision, you will need medical treatment. 

Often, some retinal detachments can appear. They can result in specks or flashing in the eyes that will blur out the vision. When that happens, it becomes incredibly difficult to get a clear vision, which means you need treatment. 

Another reason could be a damaged artery. Not many people experience a damaged artery, but when the veins are not working properly, they start to block the vessels and make the blood transportation difficult to achieve. The vision will slowly decrease. If you are having any of these symptoms, it is best to book an eye doctor appointment.

How Is Eye Pain Treated?

Depending on the type of injury or cause of pain, you will have to receive specifically tailored treatment. The type of relief depends on your current condition. Here are some options you could use to treat the discomfort and get rid of the pain. 

Eye Drops & Meds

In case of an allergy or constant pain, your ophthalmologist might recommend eye drops or medicine. These treatments decrease the pressure, ease the discomfort, and calm the symptoms. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, some of the more preferred options are:

  • Corticosteroids: These are substances designed to decrease redness, inflammation, irritation, and swelling. Drugs such as these are usually prescribed after an infection, eye injury, or surgery. They speed up the body’s natural rejuvenation process and help the eyes recuperate. 

  • NSAIDs: These are very similar substances to the Corticosteroids, except that they are in the form of an eye drop. They have the same healing properties and are meant to treat the pain in the affected eye.

     
  • Local anesthetics: These are typical eye drops used to stop the nerves from transferring any pain signals to the brain receptors. They are designed to numb the pain and are a practical solution during surgery. 

Hot/Cold Treatment

If you are experiencing an infection, like sty or Blepharitis, you can use hot treatment or compress to de-clog the hair follicles and oil glands. 

If the eyes were hurt during a fight, for example, they are irritated or itchy, you can use a cold compress instead. The cold will help numb the discomfort and ease the inflammation. It will reduce the swelling and help you open your eyes with ease. 

Protective Wear

Based on statistics, around 75% of American adults have vision problems, and 64% of them use glasses to see better and treat the pain. While 11% rely on contact lenses, these kinds of wearables have become a go-to choice for a huge part of the population. 

If the pain is the result of poor eyesight, your doctor will suggest you wear glasses or contact lenses. They are designed to give the eyes clear vision, which will reduce the pressure and help deal with the pain. 

Home Care

In other times, there won’t be much that you can do to treat the pain, except to wait for it to go away. In most cases, the rest will do the job. While exposing the eyes to TV or computer screens will have the complete opposite effect. Constant exposure results in eyestrain and may put a lot of pressure on the eyes. 

Surgery

If the damage done to the eyes is severe, your ophthalmologist will suggest surgery. The reason for that is relatively simple. The eyes need to get properly repaired so the organ will function completely. But, this is an extremely rare necessity. For most patients, laser treatment can fix the damage and restore drainage. 

How Can You Prevent Eye Pain?

Now that you know the practical ways of treating the pain, it can be useful if you also knew how to prevent it. That way, you won’t have to deal with the discomfort on such a regular basis. If you have no clue how to make that happen, these tricks can help you keep your vision in optimal health. You can do it by:

  • Handling chemicals with care

  • Being very careful around pointy edges & toys

  • Practicing impeccable hygiene

  • Eating nutritious meals

  • Dropping bad habits

Here is more about these options in detail. 

Handling Chemicals With Care

Based on reports of the University of Rochester Medical Center, hazardous materials can be a real threat. All the chemicals they contain can hurt your eyes or result in complete blindness. 

These chemicals are present in all sorts of cleaning supplies, like tile cleaners and laundry detergents. They can also be found in motor oil, rust removers, and antifreeze substances. When trying to use products such as these, follow all the safety guidelines. Also, store them in safe places and do not touch your eyes after working with them. 

Using Protective Eyewear

Glasses and goggles are practical objects for shielding the eyes from damage. They reduce the risk of injury by 90%, advises the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Whether you are working in the garden or exercising at home, keep your eyes safe. Any flying objects might hurt you. 

Being Very Careful Around Pointy Edges & Toys

Most people associate toys with choking hazards. But, there is more to these objects than it meets the eye. Research shows that children experience around 11,000 toy-related wounds on the eyes every single year. That definitely sounds scary but can be prevented. 

If the child is temperamental and doesn’t think about keeping the toys away from the eyes, you can opt for toys with a softer surface. As long as you stay away from pointy edges or objects that can fly off, like toy weapons, you can protect the eyes. 

Practicing Impeccable Hygiene

Our eyes need proper cleansing. Without it, they will be prone to infections, contamination, bacteria, and other dangerous microorganisms. Most of the vulnerability comes from the environment. 

When living in polluted areas or places with a lot of dust, the eyes easily get exposed to microorganisms that entirely obstruct the Meibomian glands. These are very important glands that help the eyes keep their balance and stay safe from invading pathogens. 

Washing the eyes with soap and water is not the smartest choice. Using cotton pads is not a good idea either. The pointy edges leave you exposed to pain and discomfort, which is irritating for the eye’s surface. 

You can try to cleanse the eyes with sterile gauze that doesn’t contain any perfume or parabens. These gauzes are stored in the fridge and can cleanse the delicate skin of the eyes completely. That’s why they can be a practical solution for keeping the eyes nice and healthy. 

Eating Nutritious Meals

One of the most often ignored contributors to good eye health is food. Not everyone pays attention to the food they eat. But, many options can keep your eyes in perfect health. 

Nutrients like zinc, lutein, fatty acids, vitamins E, and C are all handy options. They can ward off infections, pain, discomfort, and macular degeneration. All of these nutrients can be consumed by adding these foods to your diet:

  • Pork & oysters

  • Oily fish (ex. tuna and salmon)

  • Green leafy veggies (ex. cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and kale)

  • Healthy proteins (ex. beans, eggs, and nuts)

  • Citrus fruits 

The key to preventing eye pain is to opt for a well-balanced meal plan. Your goal should be to keep your immune system in perfect health so that the body will prevent illnesses and eye disease on its own. 

Plus, it will decrease the possibility of developing a metabolic disease, which will come in handy for those trying to prevent blindness. 

Dropping Bad Habits

Another major contributor to eye pain is smoking. Smoking is known for increasing the likelihood of developing cataracts, damaging the optic nerve, resulting in macular degeneration. 

People who smoke, have a 2.2 times bigger chance of developing uveitis, a type of inflammation in the middle layer of the eye tissue. 

Dropping the habit may indeed be the most difficult thing to do on this list, but it is one of the most beneficial ones. Not only will you prevent eye pain, but you will also boost your eye health in the long run. These are all necessary options if you want to keep the eyes in tip-top shape. Sometimes starting with the most difficult habits might be exactly what you need. 

Conclusion

Not many people know how to cope with eye pain. They are either afraid of the symptoms or brush it off and let it pass. While that might be the best approach in most cases, sometimes you will need to get treatment.

With all the information listed here, you can understand what to expect when dealing with pain in the eyes. Did you find our guide helpful? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Sources

  1. All About Vision. (2020) Gary Heiting, OD. Eye pain: When is eye pain an emergency? [online] Available at: https://www.allaboutvision.com/en-gb/conditions/eye-pain/
  2. The Vision Council. Digital Eye Strain. [online] Available at: https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/content/digital-eye-strain
  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2019) Brenda Pagan-Duran MD. Pain-Relieving Eye Drops. [online] Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/treatments/pain-relieving-eye-drops
  4. Glasses Crafter. What Percentage of the Population Wears Glasses? [online] Available at: http://www.glassescrafter.com/information/percentage-population-wears-glasses.html
  5. University of Rochester Medical Center. Handling Hazardous Materials at Home. [online] Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=1674
  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2019) Brenda Pagan-Duran MD. Eye Injury Prevention. [online] Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/preventing-injuries
  7. Versant Health (2016) Playing it safe: toys and children’s eye safety. [online] Available at: https://versanthealth.com/blog/playing-it-safe-toys-and-childrens-eye-safety/
  8. SiFi Group. Factsheet Eye Health> Ocular Hygiene. [online] Available at: https://www.sifigroup.com/health-Ocular_Hygiene/293_5/eng/
  9. WebMD. How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/good-eyesight#1
  10. All About Vision. (2020) Gary Heiting, OD. How smoking harms your eyes. [online] Available at: https://www.allaboutvision.com/smoking/
  11. Jama Network. (2017) Christopher C. Muth, MD. Eye Emergencies. [online] Available at:  https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2648633

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