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Ophthalmology 2023

Eye pain: 11 main causes (and what to do)

Eye pain: 11 main causes (and what to do)
Eye pain: 11 main causes (and what to do)

Eye pain is a relatively common discomfort that, in most cases, is caused by simple and temporary conditions such as dry eyes, incorrect use of contact lenses or even the flu.

However, eye pain can also be a sign of a more serious problem that needs treatment, such as conjunctivitis, keratitis or even glaucoma, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, burning sensation, tenderness light, decreased visual ability or itching.

Regardless of the cause, the ideal is to always consult an ophthalmologist, especially if the pain is very intense, does not improve after 24 hours or is accompanied by other symptoms. The doctor will make a more detailed evaluation to identify the possible cause and start the most appropriate treatment.


The main causes of eye pain are:

1. Dry eyes

Dry eyes happen due to a decrease in the quantity and quality of tears, which are responsible for lubricating the eyeball, which can happen due to being in air-conditioned environments, when riding a bike or after staying a few hours looking at the computer screen, for example. Thus, due to the dryness of the eyeball, it is possible that there is pain, redness and a burning sensation.

What to do: It is recommended to use eye drops based on artificial tears to help lubricate the eyeball. The use of eye drops that decrease the redness can also be used, but they do not treat the cause. If dryness of the eye is persistent, it is recommended that the ophthalmologist be consulted so that an evaluation can be carried out and the cause can be identified and, thus, the most appropriate treatment can be initiated.

2. Wrong use of contact lenses

Improper use of contact lenses can cause inflammation and infections in the eyes that lead to pain, redness and itching, as well as more serious problems such as ulcers or keratitis.

What to do: in this case it is recommended to change the lenses and use a lubricating eye drops, in addition to following the hygiene recommendations, maximum time of use and the expiration date of the product. See how to wear contact lenses correctly and important care.

3. Flu

The presence of infections in the body such as flu and dengue can cause symptoms of headache and eye pain, which decrease as the body fights the disease.

What to do: It is important to adopt measures that help treat the flu, as this can promote relief of symptoms, including eye pain. Thus, you can drink calming and circulation-enhancing teas, such as ginger, fennel and lavender, put warm water compresses on your forehead, use medicines like paracetamol and stay in a quiet place with low light.

4. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses and usually causes headache, pain behind the eyes, runny nose and a feeling of heaviness in the face, due to excess secretion accumulated in the sinuses.

What to do: when the symptoms are uncomfortable and last for more than 5 days, it is recommended to consult the otolaryngologist for tests to be carried out to identify the type of sinusitis and, thus, the most appropriate treatment is recommended, which may involve the use of antibiotics, nasal sprays or anti-flu.

However, it is possible to alleviate symptoms at home through strategies that help to make the accumulated secretion more fluid, favoring its elimination. See in the following video what to do to treat sinusitis and relieve symptoms:

5. Migraine

Migraine is a type of intense, pulsating headache that can be accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, sensitivity to light, eye pain and tearing, runny nose, nausea and the presence of spots in the field of vision, for example. Learn how to identify migraine.

What to do: it is important that the person is at rest and avoids as many stimuli as possible, that is, stay in an environment with little noise and little light, because that way It is possible to relieve migraine symptoms. In addition, the neurologist may indicate the use of some remedies, depending on the intensity, frequency and symptoms of migraine presented by the person, which help to relieve symptoms faster. Check out which remedies are indicated for migraine.

6. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the most superficial layer of the inner part of the eyelids, known as the tarsal conjunctiva, and the most superficial layer of the eyeball, the bulbar conjunctiva. People with conjunctivitis typically have pain, redness, discharge, and swelling in the eyes.

This inflammation can happen due to infection by bacteria, viruses, physical trauma or chemical injury, and inflammatory diseases. It can be easily transmitted from person to person if it is viral, and it also happens due to allergies.

What to do: It is important to consult the ophthalmologist for an evaluation and, thus, to be able to define the cause of conjunctivitis and start treatment, which can be done through the use of analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic remedies in case of bacterial conjunctivitis. In addition, it is important to take some care during treatment, such as always washing your hands, avoiding sharing personal objects and not wearing contact lenses. See other precautions to be taken during the treatment of conjunctivitis.

7. Dengue

Dengue is a disease caused by a virus that can have pain in the back of the eyes, as well as tiredness, body pain, headache and red spots on the skin, for example. Know how to recognize all the symptoms of dengue.

What to do: in case of suspected dengue, it is recommended to remain at rest, drink plenty of fluids and use medications that may have been prescribed by the doctor to relieve the symptoms, such as fever-reducing medication and pain relievers.

8. Keratitis

Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea that can be caused by microorganisms, injuries, blows to the eye or incorrect use of contact lenses, which can cause pain, decreased vision, sensitivity to light and excessive tearing in the eyes.

What to do: in the presence of signs and symptoms indicative of keratitis, it is recommended to consult an ophthalmologist to verify the type and severity of keratitis and, therefore, be possible to start treatment quickly, avoiding blindness. Thus, the use of eye ointments or, in more severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

9. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a multifactorial disease, however, whose main risk factor is increased pressure in the eyeball, which leads to damage to the optic nerve and progressive decrease in vision, if not diagnosed and treated early. In most cases glaucoma does not lead to the appearance of signs or symptoms, however in cases of angle-closure glaucoma, it is possible to notice intense pain in the eye, blurred vision and pupil enlargement, for example. Know how to recognize the symptoms of glaucoma.

What to do: It is important that the ophthalmologist is consulted so that the most appropriate treatment is indicated, which aims to control symptoms and prevent the development of blindness. In this way, the doctor may recommend the use of eye drops, laser therapy or surgery.

10. Optic neuritis

Optic neuritis can be identified through signs and symptoms that appear in one or both eyes, such as pain, change in color perception and sudden decrease or loss of vision. Eye pain can be moderate or severe and tends to get worse when the eye is palpated.

Optic neuritis can happen in people who have multiple sclerosis, but it can also happen in cases of tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, syphilis, AIDS, mumps, chickenpox, measles, Lyme disease, cat-scratch disease, and herpes, for example.

What to do: It is recommended that an ophthalmologist be consulted in order to identify the cause of neuritis, as treatment may vary. See more about optic neuritis.

11. Trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia can have as symptoms pain in only one eye, which happens suddenly and is intense, similar to the sensation of electric shock, in addition to intense pain in the face. The pain lasts only a few seconds to two minutes, then occurs at intervals of a few minutes to an hour, and can happen several times a day. The condition often lasts for months, even with proper treatment.

What to do: in this case, it is recommended to consult a neurologist so that the most appropriate treatment can be initiated, which may vary according to the frequency and intensity of symptoms, the use of medication or surgery, for example, may be recommended. Check out more details on the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia.

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