Recurrent pain in or around the eye can be a concerning symptom that can affect daily life. Eye pain can stem from a variety of causes, and without treatment, many can lead to vision loss and other complications. In some cases, such as eye injury, the cause of eye pain can be clear. In many cases, however, it can be difficult to determine the cause of eye pain, and further investigation is necessary.
There are several potential causes for eye pain, and they should always be treated as an emergency, prompting a visit to your eye care professional. Sharp, intense pain in the eye could be caused by: debris entering the eye, migraine or cluster headaches, inflammation, or fluid buildup in the eye, which could cause tissue damage and vision problems. Eye pain can be unilateral or bilateral, meaning it could affect one or both eyes. However, the intensity of the eye pain does not always indicate the severity of the underlying issue, and so it is important to have an eye care professional inspect your eyes if you are experiencing eye pain at any intensity.
Recurrent pain in or around the eyes usually indicates a person’s ocular status is imbalanced. Causes include dry eyes, uncorrected refractive error, binocular vision disorders, inflammatory conditions, or infections. Recurrent pain around the eyes usually indicates a chronic condition that is not being adequately addressed.
Eye pain due to dry eyes often begins slowly and gradually but can be recurrent. Dry eyes can also lead to corneal abrasions, which can lead to increased pain and discomfort. If using lubricating eye drops improves the discomfort, then the cause is likely dry eyes. While dry eyes should be assessed by your optometrist, dry eyes generally do not need urgent attention.
Pain behind your eyes can often be caused by migraine headaches or sinus infections. While these causes are also typical, they are not classified as an emergency. If you are experiencing chronic or recurring pain of this type, see your doctor for treatment and prevention.
Ocular strain can also cause recurring pain around the eye. This can be due to the overuse of eye muscles while working on the computer and can be remedied by taking breaks from screens. An uncorrected refractive error could also be the source of the eye strain. If you suspect this may be the cause of your eye pain, then see your optometrist for an examination and updated eyeglass prescription.
A less common, and more serious cause of eye pain is optic neuropathy, which can cause permanent vision loss. It is accompanied by symptoms such as: decreased visual acuity, reduced colour vision, and pain typically increasing with eye movements. Eye pain caused by optic neuropathy requires immediate attention from an ophthalmologist and neurologist. Those with MS and other neurological conditions have a higher risk of developing this condition. If you experience eye pain accompanied by these symptoms, then visit your local Optometrist or emergency room immediately.
Recurrent eye pain should not be ignored as it may point towards more serious chronic conditions. A patient experiencing recurrent eye pain should visit their optometrist to get properly examined.