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What are the Most Common Causes of Eye Pain?

By Alex Terris
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Some of the most common causes of eye pain include conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, and foreign objects in the eye. Inflammation of the eyelids, which is known as blepharitis, can also cause pain. Other serious causes of pain include glaucoma, which can result in blindness if left untreated, and neuritis, where the nerve at the back of the eye becomes inflamed.

Eye pain can generally be categorized into two distinct types. Ocular pain refers to discomfort around the outside of the eye, while orbital pain is usually felt deep behind the eye. Orbital pain also tends to be less sharp than ocular, although it can be caused by a variety of serious eye diseases.

Some of the most common causes of ocular pain include conjunctivitis, a sty, and corneal abrasions. Conjunctivitis is a condition in which parts of the eyeball become inflamed, thus causing itching and discharge as well as pain in some cases. It is a common cause of eye pain and can be easily treated most of the time. A sty is an infection of the glands in the eyelids, resulting in pain and sometimes a lump. Corneal abrasions are simply when the cornea, i.e., the front surface of the eye, becomes scratched or damaged.

There are a number of other potential causes of ocular pain. For example, a bit of dirt or dust caught in the eye may cause discomfort. Contact lenses sometimes break in the eye, leaving a small part behind. Blepharitis, where the eyelids become inflamed, is another common cause of pain in the eye.

Orbital eye pain is often more serious. Glaucoma is a condition involving an increased pressure in the eye. Acute glaucoma, where the pressure rises quickly, can result in severe symptoms including eye pain and a reduction in vision. Acute glaucoma not treated immediately can cause blindness.

The iris, the colored part of the eye, can become inflamed. This is known as iritis and often results in pain that feels like it is deep within the eye. Compared to other eye problems, iritis is relatively uncommon. It can be caused by a direct impact to the eye as well as infection.

Other potential causes of orbital eye pain include neuritis, a condition in which the nerve into the eyeball becomes inflamed, and sinusitis, where the pressure behind the eye increases. Aside from the location and type of pain, diagnosis of the condition depends on what other symptoms are present. The initial reasons for the eye pain are also important. If, for example, the patient has recently been in a a car crash or suffered a severe migraine, these conditions can result in pain around the eye.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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