When you get up in the morning and go about your day, you take your eyes for granted. However, when your eyes are strained or hurt, it becomes instantly debilitating. At various times, your eye can ache and hurt on the surface or in deep inside the eyes sensitive structure. Often, a foreign object causes this type of pain, but there are many other symptoms, causes, and treatments to explore. Deep eye pain is typically throbbing or aching in nature.
Eye strain affects nerves and muscles in your eyes. Its official name is asthenopia. When you strain your eyes by overworking them, the tiny nerves and muscles are fatigued. Unlike regular eye disorders, eye strain develops aside from any medical or genetic background. It can occur in young children or older adults. If you’re like most people, symptoms include headaches, pain, and trouble focusing. Did you know your eyes become tired just like any other muscle? Focusing light on images, interpret text and follow movement takes a great deal of work. All day your eyes perceive and interpret the world for you. They are sensitive to lack of sleep, nutrient deficiencies, too much light exposure, muscular tension, and pollution.
Where Does It Hurt?
Many symptoms factor into the cause your pain and knowing where the pain occurs can help you discover the cause. To have a more productive conversation with your doctor, it’s important to understand the terminology.The cornea is a transparent window on the front of the eye that focuses light, and the sclera is the whites of your eyes. The conjunctiva forms an ultra-thin covering over the sclera and inside your eyelid. The colored portion of your eye is the iris, which has the pupil inside it. Your eye socket is a bony cave called the orbit, where your eye muscles are found. The extraocular muscles rotate your eye. Meanwhile, nerves carry information from the eye to the brain, and your eyelid protects the eye and keeps it moist.
Tests to Diagnose Eye Pain
Go to the doctor if you have pain that impacts your vision or if you also experience headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Eye doctors use various tools to examine your eye. A slit-lamp exam involves shining bright light inside the eye so that the doctor can see each structure in your eye. Dilating drops open your pupil, letting the doctor see deeper and more detail. Also, a tonometer measures eye pressure and is used to diagnose glaucoma.
Common Eye Problems
Several common eye conditions cause pain, itching or irritation. Blepharitis is an infection or inflammation of the eyelid. Meanwhile, conjunctivitis (pinkeye) results from an inflammation of the conjunctiva. It’s caused by allergic reactions or infections. Blood vessels swell and make the eye whites turn red while your eye turns itchy and gunky.Corneal abrasions are scratches on your cornea. Unfortunately, even minor scratches can cause a lot of pain. It can happen if you rub your eye too hard or if you get debris in it. Typically, the doctor gives you antibiotics, and it heals in a few days. Corneal infections, keratitis, occurs when your cornea is inflamed or infected. Leaving your contacts in overnight or wearing dirty contacts triggers corneal infections.Foreign bodies, such as dirt, can irritate your eye. Try to rinse out debris with artificial tears or water to avoid scratches.
Other Eye Problems that Can Cause Pain
Glaucoma is a condition where fluid builds up that presses against your optic nerve. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Often, you don’t have early symptoms. Acute angle-closure glaucoma introduces pressure that rises in your eye suddenly. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headache, severe eye pain and worsening vision. This is an emergency requiring immediate medical care.Iritis or uveitis is an inflammation caused by infections, trauma or immune system deficiencies. Symptoms include red eye, pain, red eye and decreased vision. Optic neuritis impacts the optic nerve at the back of the eyeball that leads to your brain. Multiple sclerosis and other diseases are typically the culprits. It causes profound discomfort when you move your eyes from side to side.Sinusitis causes pressure to build up in your eyes. Meanwhile, a stye is a tender bump on your eyelid caused by an infected eyelash, oil gland or hair follicle.
Other symptoms include blurry vision and headaches. You might feel like there is something in your eye. Light sensitivity, tearing, red or pink eyes, nausea and vomiting all indicate bigger problems. These symptoms provide valuable clues to the root problem. So, tell your eye doctor as much as you can remember in detail.
Seek Emergency Medical Care
There are emergencies in which you should call 911 for eye pain, including for severe pain, especially if fever, headache and light sensitivity accompany it. If your vision changes, causing nausea and vomit, go to the emergency room.Any time a foreign object is lodged in your eye, or it is splashed with chemicals, seek emergency help. If you see halos around light, have swelling in or around the eye or notice pus coming out of the eye, get help right away.
Eye Pain Tips
Non-medicated eye drops alleviate eye dryness and artificial tears are available at most pharmacies. If you have something in your eye, gently flush it out using sterile water or saline. A warm compress eases pain and inflammation due to a stye or eyelid infection. Simply submerge a clean cloth in warm water and lightly press it against your eye. Common headache medicines may help with certain types of eye pain.
Treatments vary significantly and target the specific cause. Conjunctivitis is often treated with antibacterial drops. Antihistamines improve conjunctivitis due to allergies. Corneal abrasions heal on their own. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointment or drops for severe cuts.For glaucoma, eyedrops or medication can reduce pressure, but surgery is sometimes required. Infected corneas are treated with antiviral or antibacterial eyedrops. Your doctor typically treats iritis with steroids, antibiotics, or antiviral eyedrops. Meanwhile, optic neuritis is treated with corticosteroids.A warm compress over a few days helps a stye begin to heal. Most importantly, see a doctor to protect your precious vision.
Keep your eyes healthy
Eye pain is usually temporary, so if common treatments don’t help, call you doctor. Painkillers, eye drops, and a warm compress help alleviate minor eye pain and discomfort. If symptoms worsen quickly, seek emergency care. The best way to help your eyes stay healthy is to get lots of sleep, drink enough water and take frequent breaks during computer and cell phone usage.