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Eye Health Center

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Eye Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What Symtoms Are Associated With Eye Pain?

Eye pain can happen on its own or along with other symptoms, such as:

  • Decreased vision
  • Discharge, which can be clear, or thick and colored
  • Foreign body sensation -- the feeling that something is in the eye, whether real or imagined
  • Headache
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Red eye or pink eye
  • Tearing
  • The eye being crusted shut after sleep due to discharge

Other symptoms along with sore eyes can be a clue to what is causing the eye pain.

How Is Eye Pain Diagnosed?

See your eye doctor if you have eye pain, especially if you have decreased vision, headache, or nausea and vomiting.

Eye care specialists use a variety of tools to diagnose eye pain, all generally used in an office setting:

  • A slit-lamp exam uses bright light to look into all the structures of the eye.
  • Dilating drops expand the pupil to allow the doctor to see deep into the eye.
  • A pressure-gauging instrument (tonometer) can detect high pressures caused by glaucoma.

How Is Eye Pain Treated?

Just as the causes of eye pain vary, so do the treatments, which target the specific cause of eye pain.

  • Corneal abrasions. These heal on their own with time but often are treated with antibiotic ointments.
  • Glaucoma. Eye pain is treated urgently with eye drops and occasionally with pills to reduce eye pressure. If these don't work, surgery may be needed.
  • Infections of the cornea. These may require antiviral or antibacterial eye drops.
  • Iritis. This can be treated with steroid, antibiotic, or antiviral eye drops.
  • Optic neuritis. This can be treated with corticosteroids.
  • Styes. These are usually cured by applying regular warm compresses at home for a few days.

The only way to sort out the potential causes of eye pain and to get the right treatment is to see a doctor. Your vision is precious. Protect it by taking eye pain seriously.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on October 03, 2015
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