What is eye pain? It is known as ophthalmalgia. Eye pain is more serious than the simple irritation one feels from a piece of dirt or small foreign object in the eye. The discomfort from eye pain can fall into two categories: Ocular pain occurs on the eye’s surface, and orbital pain occurs within the eye. Eye pain that occurs on the surface may be caused by scratching, burning, or itching sensation.
One of the most common causes of eye pain is when you have something in your eye which can include an eyelash, a piece of dirt, or makeup, and having a foreign object in the eye can cause irritation, redness, watery eyes, and pain.
Dry eyes are another cause of eye pain. The Ocular Surgery News communicated that the economic burden, annual direct cost, for dry eye disease (DED) was $678 (i.e., medical care treatment costs) for patients with mild dry eye symptoms, $771 for patients with moderate dry eye symptoms, and $1,267 for patients with severe dry eye symptoms. These symptoms may damage the clear, dome-shaped outer layer covering the front of the eye. In severe cases, this damage can lead to permanent vision loss and even blindness.
Dry eye syndrome is a relatively common condition in which your eyes are unable to produce adequate tears to moisten the eye. Dry eyes can bring on sensitivity to light and headaches. Both can be painful and lead to pain behind your eyes.
In epidemiological studies performed globally, the prevalence of dry eye disease (DED) ranges from 5 to 50 percent. The National Health and Wellness Survey found that 6.8 percent of the United States adult population (approximately 16.4 million people) have been diagnosed with DED (Prevalence).
A person should contact an ophthalmologist or their regular doctor if they have severe eye pain. Eye pain that does not go away after a few hours may create visual disturbances such as blurred vision or dark spots.
Treating Eye Pain
We take a lot of aspects of our vision for granted. We expect to see nearby and faraway objects clearly, even if we require our eye care provider to prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses to do so. A huge degree of the information we take in about our world and our surroundings takes place visually, yet we rarely recognize and appreciate the fact. Finally, as adults, we blink on average 10 to 15 times per minute or over 16,000 times during an 18-hour day. Despite all the mechanical action involved in blinking, moving one’s eyes to follow a moving object, or even focusing our eyes to see a small object, most of us rarely experience eye pain. Thus, when we do experience eye pain, it is an extremely frustrating event, despite the magnitude of the pain we may feel. The pain may limit our ability to see, read, walk, watch TV, or conduct many of the activities of daily living.
Other Common Sources for Eye Pain Are:
Physical or Chemical Irritants
Eye pain or irritation can come from a variety of sources. Sand or grit blown into one’s eyes can cause significant discomfort until the particles are rinsed out with a neutral eye solution. The vapor of some harsh chemicals can also cause eye irritation, particularly if used in enclosed spaces. Tear gas is an example of a chemical designed to cause severe eye irritation, overactive tearing as the eyes attempt to wash the chemical away, and involuntary eyelid closure to avoid additional exposure to the irritant. An optometry evaluation may be necessary under these circumstances to help treat the exposure and prevent permanent damage.
“Snow blindness” or “flash burns” — the eyes’ equivalent of a sunburn — can occur when we expose our eyes to bright sunlight or extremely bright lights without the protection of ultraviolet sunglasses. Just like a sunburn, the eyes may require two to three days to recover. Treatment for photokeratitis usually consists of cool compresses to the closed eyes three to four times per day, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication by mouth, and plenty of fluids. Like a sunburn affects the skin, photokeratitis can cause long-term damage to one’s visual health.
Important To Know
Some neurological conditions — such as migraine headaches, cluster headaches, or trigeminal neuralgia — can also appear with primary symptoms of eye pain. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you should see your doctor immediately if you have eye pain and experience the following:
- It is unusually severe or accompanied by headache, fever, or unusual sensitivity to light
- Your vision changes suddenly
- You also experience nausea or vomiting
- It is caused by a foreign object or chemical splashed in your eye
- You suddenly begin to see halos around lights
- You have swelling in or around your eyes
- You have trouble moving your eye or are unable to keep it open
- You have blood or pus coming from your eyes
Contact us if you have any questions.