Eye pain can occur on the surface of your eye or within your eye's deeper structures. Severe eye pain — especially accompanied by any vision loss — may be a signal that you have a serious medical condition. Seek immediate medical attention.
Eye pain that's on the surface of your eye might be described as itching, burning or shooting pain. Surface eye pain is often related to a foreign object in your eye, an eye infection, or anything that irritates or inflames the membrane covering the surface of your eye.
You might describe eye pain that is deeper within your eye as throbbing or aching.
- Blepharitis (which is eyelid inflammation)
- Chalazion or stye, which comes from inflammation in the glands of your eyelid
- Cluster headache
- Complication of eye surgery
- Contact lens problem
- Corneal abrasion (scratch): First aid
- Corneal herpetic infection or herpes
- Dry eyes (caused by decreased production of tears)
- Ectropion (a condition in which the eyelid turns outward)
- Entropion (a condition in which the eyelid turns inward)
- Eyelid infection
- Foreign object in the eye: First aid
- Glaucoma (which is a group of conditions that damage the optic nerve)
- Injury, such as from a blunt trauma or a burn
- Iritis (which is inflammation of the colored part of the eye)
- Keratitis (which is inflammation of the cornea)
- Optic neuritis (which is inflammation of the optic nerve)
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- Scleritis (which is inflammation of the white part of the eye)
- Stye (sty) (a red, painful lump near the edge of your eyelid)
- Uveitis (which is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye)
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency medical care
Call 911 or your local emergency number for eye pain if:
- It is unusually severe or accompanied by a headache, fever or unusual sensitivity to light.
- Your vision changes suddenly.
- You also experience nausea or vomiting.
- It is caused by a foreign object or chemical splashed in your eye.
- You suddenly begin to see halos around lights.
- You have swelling in or around your eyes.
- You have trouble moving your eye or are unable to keep it open.
- You have blood or pus coming from your eyes.
Make a doctor's appointment
Contact your eye surgeon if you're experiencing eye pain and you've had eye surgery in the past or if you've recently had eye surgery or an eye injection.
Seek medical attention if:
- You have eye pain and you wear soft contact lenses.
- You have a weakened immune system.
- Your eye pain is not improving after 2 to 3 days of medication.
Last Updated Mar 3, 2023