Sudden Sharp Pain in the Eye

Female eye

Pain in the eye and around the eye can have lots of causes. Sometimes, such as an eye injury, the cause of the pain is obvious. However frequently it is hard to understand why your eye hurts.

To complicate matters, the intensity of eye pain does not indicate how serious the underlying cause of the discomfort is. In other words, a reasonably minor problem, such as a shallow abrasion of the cornea, can be very painful.

But numerous extremely serious eye conditions– including cataracts, macular degeneration, the most common type of glaucoma, a separated retina, and diabetic eye disease– cause no eye pain whatsoever.

The cornea of the eye is among the most delicate tissues of the body. In reality, the density of sensory nerves in the cornea can be as much as 500 times that of the skin.

The high level of sensitivity of the cornea works, due to the fact that it’s the first line of defense against external injury to the eye. So if something aggravates the front surface of your eye, you will notice it quickly.

Female eyeA painful eye can produce various sensations and accompanying symptoms, which can help your optometrist determine the cause of your discomfort. These include a sharp, stabbing sensation, a burning sensation, pulsating, a dull pains, and a sensation something is “in” your eye (this is called a “foreign body sensation”).

Sudden sharp pain in the eye also is often accompanied by blurred vision, redness (bloodshot eyes) and level of sensitivity to light.

Here prevail causes of eye pain, based upon the location of the discomfort:

Pain in Your Eye

Typically, sudden sharp pain in the eye that seems like something is in the eye really is caused by irritation or inflammation of the front surface of the eye, particularly the cornea.

Typical causes of sharp pain in the eye originating from the front surface of the eye or inside the eye include:

Corneal foreign body. Not surprisingly, what typically causes a foreign body sensation in the eye is a real foreign body. Common foreign bodies that can comply with and end up being ingrained in the surface of the cornea include metal shavings, inorganic grit (sand, small stone particles), sawdust and other natural product.

The discomfort from a corneal foreign body can range from mild to severe, and usually it is most annoying when you’re blinking (given that the eyelid typically is rubbing throughout it during blinks). Blurred vision and level of sensitivity to light likewise are common.

A corneal foreign body requires immediate attention from an eye doctor, since product ingrained in the cornea can rapidly cause a serious eye infection.

Most corneal foreign bodies can be removed easily in the doctor’s workplace with the proper tools. Antibacterial eye drops might be prescribed to prevent infection while the cornea heals.

Corneal abrasion. This is a scratched cornea. Although a lot of corneal abrasions are not serious, they can be really uncomfortable and cause light sensitivity and watery eyes.

Lots of shallow corneal scratches recover without treatment within 24 Hr. However deeper abrasions can result in a serious eye infection and even a corneal ulcer if left untreated.

Since it’s typically difficult to inform if sudden sharp pain in the eye is due to a minor scratch, a deep abrasion or a corneal foreign body, it’s a great idea to see an eye doctor for any sharp discomfort of the eye that does not deal with extremely quickly, to identify the underlying cause.

Dry eyes. Another typical cause of eye discomfort is dry eyes. Usually dry eye discomfort starts more slowly and gradually than eye pain from a corneal foreign body or abrasion. Often dry eyes can cause a corneal abrasion, since there are inadequate tears on the surface area of the eye to keep the cornea moist and slippery.

If using lubricating eye drops considerably enhances convenience, the cause of the pain is most likely dry eyes. In many cases, dry eye does not require urgent attention; however your optometrist can perform tests to figure out the severity of the dryness and recommend the most effective treatment.

Other (less typical) causes of anterior eye pain, or pain “in” the eye, include:

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye).
  • Eye infections (consisting of fungal eye infections and Acanthamoeba keratitis).
  • Iritis (anterior uveitis), which is inflammation of the iris.
  • Contact lens discomfort.

A very serious cause of pain in the eye is a condition called endophthalmitis, which is inflammation of the interior of the eye that most often is caused by a bacterial infection. It likewise can take place as an unusual problem of cataract surgery.

Endophthalmitis, in addition to triggering eye pain, causes soreness, swollen eyelids and decreased vision. If you have these symptoms after cataract surgery or other eye surgery, see your optometrist right away.

Pain Behind Your Eye

Common causes of pain behind the eyes are migraine headaches and sinus infections.

In the case of a migraine headache, the pain often is behind just one eye and typically is accompanied by pain somewhere else on the same side of the head.

Pain behind the eye from a sinus infection typically is less severe than pain from a migraine, and both eyes may be impacted.

Though pain behind the eyes from these causes usually is not an emergency situation, if you have chronic or repeating pain of this type, see your eye doctor or basic physician for treatment and to see what can be done to prevent future episodes.

Pain Around the Eyes

Most likely the most typical pain around the eyes is inflammation within the eyelid, which is the typical stye (also called a hordeolum). The primary symptom of a stye is a localized, really tender area on one eyelid.

A stye does not require immediate attention from an eye doctor and typically can be effectively treated at home by applying warm compresses to the eyelid numerous times a day for a few days.

Blepharitis is another common (and usually not immediate) issue that can cause swollen eyelids and discomfort around the eyes.

Another common cause of pain around the eyes and eye muscle pain is overuse of the eyes when working at the computer system. This is not an urgent problem, and there are easy actions you can require to alleviate computer system eye strain.

A much less typical and much more serious cause of pain around the eyes is a condition called optic neuropathy, which can cause long-term vision loss. Accompanying symptoms are typically decreased visual skill and decreased color vision, and the pain generally is even worse with eye movements.

Eye pain that may be caused by optic neuropathy needs immediate attention by an ophthalmologist and a neurologist. Among people under 40, multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions are the most common causes of optic neuritis.

What Could Sudden Eye Pain Indicate?

Dr. Ashley Behrens
Ocular pain might come from different conditions in the eye or its area. Most likely among the most feared causes of abrupt pain is a glaucoma attack (also called acute angle closure glaucoma). In this disease, the intraocular pressure all of a sudden increases as much as levels that irreversibly harm the optic nerve if left unattended for a few hours.

It is accompanied by blurred vision, red eye, and often queasiness and vomiting. This is one of the few true eye emergencies and need to be treated instantly to preserve vision. However, the pain in a glaucoma attack is normally persistent and worsens over time, which does not sound like what’s happening to you.

Other causes of sudden eye pain are optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve), Tolosa-Hunt syndrome (eye pain and headache associated with inflammation of the back of the eye), or, regularly, merely ocular tiredness after several hours of reading or working at a near range without suitable glasses correction.

It is very important to determine the type of pain you are experiencing, because if associated with headaches, it may likewise indicate brain disease. If pain worsens with eye movement, it might reveal problems in the orbit (eye socket), that include infections that may infect the nervous system.

If you had any sort of injury, the pain may be caused by a corneal abrasion (scratch of the cornea of the eye), but this type of pain ought to be more persistent and quite painful. Corneal infections might likewise induce stabbing pain in the eye.

In summary, many different conditions can produce abrupt eye pain. An evaluation by an eye doctor who can do a comprehensive eye examination is the best method to find the source.

My Eye Hurts! What Should I Do?

It’s probably pretty obvious by now that, if your eye hurts, you need to consider it an emergency. The best strategy is to see your eye doctor as quickly as possible, to eliminate a serious eye issue that could cause increasing pain, issue to the eye and permanent vision loss.

In specific, see your eye doctor immediately if you have a painful eye and:

  • The pain occurred instantly after grinding metal, sawing wood, or other activities that may cause a foreign body injury (particularly if you were not using shatterproof glass or protective eyewear).
  • The pain is because of an eye injury.
  • The pain is severe and is accompanied by blurred vision and/or level of sensitivity to light.
  • You have had recent eye surgery, consisting of LASIK and cataract surgery.
  • You have inflammation and discharge from the eye.
  • The pain is severe, began suddenly, and you have a history of glaucoma. This could signal a severe attack of a less typical type of glaucoma called angle-closure glaucoma, which can cause quick vision loss and is a medical emergency.

When it concerns eye pain, don’t take chances– see your eye doctor as quickly as possible to determine the specific cause and get timely treatment.


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