Fitness Facts: Taking a look at eye pain
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Pain in the eyes, also called ophthalmalgia, can be caused by several nonemergent conditions and often can be treated at home but should never be ignored.
The physical discomfort could be caused by dryness, allergies, a scratch on the surface of the eyeball (called the conjunctiva) or a medical condition that could affect a person’s vision.
The pain can be slight or severe, which may cause the sufferer to rub their eyes, squint, blink more quickly or feel like they need to keep their eyes shut.
If the pain is severe — and especially if it is accompanied by a headache, blurred vision and/or increased eye redness — seek medical attention immediately. Do not ignore these symptoms. On rare occasions, these symptoms are related to conditions that can cause permanent blindness.
Some of the causes of eye pain are listed below:
- Conjunctivitis (commonly known as “pink eye”). It can cause pain, redness, drainage or burning of the eye. It generally starts in one eye and gradually moves to the unaffected eye, though this is not always the case. Affected eye(s) can be “crusted” shut upon waking after sleep. This condition is highly contagious and must be treated by a healthcare provider.
- Blepharitis happens when the oil glands in the eyelashes become clogged. The eyelids become swollen, red and painful. This often can be treated by warm compresses to the area, but if it becomes persistent and/or causes visual blurring, it must be treated by a healthcare provider.
- Cluster headaches: These headaches often present themselves as severe pain behind one eye, accompanied by redness and watery drainage. They are extremely painful but not life threatening and can be treated with medication.
- Iritis: This is an inflammation of the iris. It causes redness, tearing and an achy feeling in one or both eyes. It be caused by several medical conditions and should be diagnosed by a heathcare provider.
- Glaucoma: With glaucoma, there is pressure inside the eye that can lead to problems with vision. As the pressure increases, so does the pain in the eye.
- Vision changes: Many people experience changes in their vision as they age. This can cause them to strain their eyes when trying to focus on something close or far away. Vision changes can cause headaches and eye pain until corrected with an eyeglass prescription.
- PhotoKeratitis (flash burns): This is a sunburn of the surface of the eye. If a burning or stinging feeling occurs after being exposed to the sun or in a tanning booth, see a ophthalmologist or optometrist as soon as possible.
- Other causes: Eye strain, sinus infection, dry eye conditions and eye injury.
Whatever the cause may be, the American Academy of Ophthalmologists recommends seeing a healthcare provider under these conditions:
- Redness in the cornea;
- Unusual sensitivity to light;
- Exposure to pink eye;
- Eyes or eyelashes encrusted with mucous;
- Moderate to severe pain in your eyes or your head.