Common Causes of Eye Pain: Do You Need a Doctor?

Eye pain can be concerning when you’re not sure about the cause. Here, we fill you in on some of the common conditions you should be aware of so you can determine when you  may need to see the doctor. First, we should differentiate between the two primary categories of eye pain:

  • Ocular pain is the type of pain that is inside the eye, such as itching and burning. 
  • Orbital pain is deeper eye pain that may feel as though it is behind the eye. Orbital pain may be a stabbing, throbbing, or aching sensation. 

Most instances of eye pain are not a significant cause for alarm. However, it goes without saying (but we’re saying it, anyway) that eye pain coupled with vision loss is a medical emergency. If this type of pain occurs, go to the nearest emergency room.

The Leading Cause of Eye Pain Is . . . 

By far, the leading cause of eye pain is a foreign object affecting the ocular surface. It is possible to have something in the eye and not know what it is or how it got there. Symptoms of a foreign body include:

  • Redness
  • Excessive tearing
  • Itching, burning, or stinging
  • A foreign body sensation
  • Inability to keep the eyelid open
  • Sensitivity to light

A number of objects can not only irritate the eye but cause injury. Examples include a speck of dust, windblown sand, chemicals, or a rogue eyelash. Some objects can be removed easily by rinsing the eye. Others require prompt, professional flushing to avoid corneal abrasion. 

Additional Causes of Eye Pain

Next to foreign objects, infections account for a large number of eye pain cases. The Centers for Disease Control reports that nearly 1 million people seek medical treatment for eye infections each year. Infection can cause many of the same symptoms as a foreign object and then some. One of the easiest ways to identify an eye infection is the presence of yellowish crust or discharge from the eye.

Eye infections may be fungal, bacterial, or viral. With proper care, these conditions can be successfully treated. 

  • Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, may be caused by a virus or bacteria. Common treatment includes topical antibiotics.
  • Viral eye infections can result from the zoster virus or herpes simplex virus. Treatment depends on the severity of the infection. In some cases, the virus will run its course without much discomfort. More severe cases may be treated with an antiviral medication. 

Addressing Orbital Pain

Instances of orbital pain should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. There are a number of reasons a sense of pain or pressure could occur, such as glaucoma. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 3 million Americans have this condition, but only half of them are aware of it. Orbital pain may also be caused by inflammation of the optic nerve, called optic neuritis, or by an autoimmune disorder. Because orbital pain could indicate a more concerning eye or health condition, prompt care is needed. 

Our team of experienced ophthalmologists serves the Alliance, Canfield, and North Canton areas. Contact an office near you to schedule an appointment

Posted in: Eye Care

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