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What are the Most Common Causes of Eyeball Pain?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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The most common causes of eyeball pain are conjunctivitis, allergies, migraine, and injury to the eye. Burns and abrasions are the most common forms of injury. Sometimes a blocked oil gland, or sty, can also cause eyeball pain. Any severe discomfort should be discussed with a doctor.

Conjunctivitis, more commonly referred to as “pink eye,” is an infection and is the most common cause of eyeball pain. It is generally caused by a bacteria which enters the eye when one wipes or rubs it with unclean hands. Children are most susceptible to this condition because they do not always wash hands after using the restroom, touching other children or toys, or playing outdoors. Sometimes severe allergies can lead to conjunctivitis as well.

Eyeball pain can also be caused by irritation due to seasonal or indoor allergies. Dust, pollen, and pet dander are all potential irritants which may cause dryness, itching, and pain. Sometimes discomfort originates behind the eyeball in the sinus cavities and leads to a headache with throbbing pain behind the eyes. Allergy pain may affect more than one area or move from one area to another.

Injuries to the cornea can also cause eyeball pain in many individuals. This can be due to something getting in the eye and causing scratches, or household cleaners getting into the eye and burning the cornea. If anything gets in the eye, it should be rinsed thoroughly with cool water for several minutes. Most of the time these issues will heal on their own without treatment, but if vision is affected or impaired, a doctor should be notified to rule out serious complications. Sometimes medical treatment will be needed to fix a severe injury.

Occasionally a blocked oil gland on or in the eye can cause eyeball pain. These glands can become large and inflamed and may cause severe pain when rubbed or touched. They often occur inside the eyelid, but sometimes they occur on the eye itself. Other blisters and sores can also occur on the eye, and these may lead to pain as well. Most of these conditions clear up without treatment, but in very severe instances surgery may be required to remove the offending duct or sore.

Any sudden or severe eyeball pain should be reported to an eye doctor. Very rarely a serious health condition could be to blame which may affect the eyesight. A thorough exam may be needed to rule out such complications.

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