Why Does My Eye Hurt? Common Reasons for Ocular Pain

Pain acts as the body’s alarm system. It signals when external stimuli, like heat or pressure, cause injury. It also warns of potentially damaging conditions that develop throughout the body, such as cancer. Without pain, you could not keep your body as safe and healthy as you do now.

Nobody likes to feel this sensation, especially when it occurs in delicate tissues like your eyes. You know that a large number of problems could permanently affect your vision, so when your eyes hurt, you feel concerned, if not alarmed.

However, eye pain stems from innocuous causes most of the time. We have outlined some of those causes below. We have also described other common, but more dangerous conditions that may have instigated your discomfort.

1. Allergies

Allergies create pressure and inflammation in your sinuses. Your eyes connect to your sinuses, so your ocular tissue may become inflamed as well. The resulting pressure often leads to eye pain.

Additionally, when pollen, pet hair, and other allergens touch your eyes, they may directly inflame the tissues and cause the same kind of discomfort.

2. Dry Eyes

Dry eye occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears. People develop this condition due to age, medication, tear gland damage, and contact lens wear. People who stare at computer screens and forget to blink may also get dry eye.

You feel pain with this condition because your eyes need tears as a lubricant. When they don’t have enough of this lubricant, anything that touches them-even your eyelids-feels rough and scratchy. Additionally, your eyes become sensitive to light when they dry out, so you may feel pain as you strain to look at bright screens, lamps, sunlight, and more.

3. Headaches

Even something as simple as a headache can cause ocular discomfort. Specifically, if you get cluster headaches, you will often feel them behind your eye. This condition should not alarm you-it doesn’t have any life-threatening or -altering consequences. It will simply cause pain around one eye, excess tearing, and some swelling. Cluster headaches also tend to occur in periods of six to 12 weeks.

However, if you have never had cluster headaches before, you must see your doctor to rule out other conditions, like a ruptured blood vessel or a tumor.

4. Abrasions

Just like your skin, your eye’s surface can sustain scratches, scrapes, and other types of abrasions. This kind of injury causes a sharp, stinging pain rather than a dull, throbbing one. Think about anything that has touched your eye recently. You may have handled a contact lens too roughly, or you may have poked your eye with a mascara wand. Any pressure or touch could lead to an abrasion.

Abrasions and other small injuries can heal on their own, but they also have a high risk for infection. Contact your optometrist to see what instructions he or she has while you recover.

5. Foreign Bodies

When something lodges in your eye, you know you have an emergency. Go to your preferred optical specialist to have the item removed. Do not try to pull it out because you could cause additional damage. Your optometrist’s hands give you the best chance at preserving your vision.

Sometimes small items lodge in your eye, and you do not notice them right away. Your eyes tear up and you may struggle to keep them open. Use a mirror to try and locate the foreign body. If you see an eyelash, use eye drops to rinse it out. If the item seems stuck in your ocular tissue, visit your eye professionals.

6. Infections/Keratitis

Your eyes can get infections just like the rest of your body. These infections arise when bacteria attack your ocular tissue after you wear dirty contact lenses, put something unsanitary in your eye, or develop another disease. For example, if you get shingles, the infection could spread to your eyes. Your eyes will look red and inflamed as a result, and you may feel pain.

7. Conjunctivitis

Most people know this condition as pink eye. It also occurs because of infection, but its symptoms differ slightly. You will still have red and inflamed tissues, but you will also notice discharge, increased tear production, light sensitivity, and even blurred vision.

In some cases, conjunctivitis can cause permanent damage, especially if it comes from bacteria or a virus. See your optometrist as soon as possible for treatment.

8. Blepharitis

This condition affects your eyelids rather than the eye itself, but it can still cause pain. “Blepharitis” refers to eyelid inflammation. Your eyelids will appear red and swollen because debris has clogged the oil glands near your eyelashes. Your eyelids may also appear greasy or flaky.

You do not have to see a specialist for this condition unless good hygiene does not eliminate it. However, regular cleaning should solve the problem.

9. Glaucoma

The term “glaucoma” covers a variety of conditions that all cause optic nerve damage. One of these conditions, acute angle-closure glaucoma, can cause severe pain. Other symptoms include halos around lights, blurred vision, eye redness, and nausea.

Glaucoma can cause permanent blindness, so if you experience these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your optometrist.


Most of the time, you will not have a serious ocular condition. You will simply have allergies or headaches. But if you suspect you have a dangerous infection or glaucoma, then use the pain as a warning and have your eyes inspected.