The causes of eye pressure and pain may vary — from dry eyes to headaches to more complex diseases. Learn about the causes and symptoms of and remedies for eye pain, how to treat milder cases of eye discomfort at home, and when to call a licensed eye doctor to evaluate your symptoms.
Understanding the Differences Between Ocular and Orbital Pain
Do you know why your eyes feel uncomfortable, or are you unsure why you have these symptoms? To diagnose the root cause of eye pain and to better communicate with your eye doctor, it’s essential to understand these differences between ocular pain and orbital pain:
- Ocular pain: This is the type of pain you feel on the surface of your eyeball. You may have scratched or injured your eye. You might also feel that something is stuck in your eye or notice that your eyes feel abnormally dry.
- Orbital pain: Orbital pain affects the socket the eye rests in. This type of pain may feel like it’s “behind” your eyes. It might also feel like your eyes are throbbing. Feeling tired with pressure behind your eyes may indicate a migraine or illness.
Common Causes of Eye Pain
There are many causes of eye pain and discomfort. Many symptoms are easily treated at home, but some require medical intervention. Read through the following types of eye pain to determine if your condition needs professional treatment.
Dry eyes may be a side effect of the low humidity in the Arizona area, a symptom of an autoimmune disease, or a signal that you’ve simply been working at your computer for too long. Experiencing occasional dry eyes is normal, but severe, chronic dry eyes call for a trip to the eye doctor.
Headaches (Tension and Migraine)
Tension headaches can affect the orbital space because they tighten the muscles in the head and eye area. Migraines, on the other hand, are neurological and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. During a migraine episode, you may experience deep, throbbing orbital pain, pressure behind your left or right eye, or pain in the eye socket and brow bone.
Waking up with eye pain and headache may indicate the beginning of a migraine. Note that sharp, sudden head or eye pain is never normal and should be promptly assessed by a professional.
Accidents and injuries can cause both ocular and orbital pain. It’s crucial to seek medical treatment immediately after a blow or laceration that affects your eye area.
The human head contains several sinus cavities that sit below and above the eyes. When your sinuses swell during an infection, they can cause orbital pressure. You should seek medical treatment if you are experiencing sharp or ongoing eye pain that doesn’t improve when your illness does.
Nerves connect different parts of your face, including your eyes, teeth, sinuses, and nasal cavities. Pain from an infected or abscessed tooth can radiate across your face to the eye area. You might feel orbital pain, tooth pain, or both, as a tooth problem can present as pain elsewhere in the face. It’s a good idea to have your pain examined if you aren’t sure of the cause.
Optic neuritis is the medical term for a swollen optic nerve. This nerve connects your eyes to the vision centers in your brain and is responsible for sending images from the eyes to your brain. When this nerve is swollen, it can cause blurry vision, light sensitivity, and vision loss when left untreated.
Symptoms to Look Out For
While some eye discomfort symptoms are obvious, others are not. Watch out for these symptoms:
- Pain on the surface of your eyes
- Pain behind your eyes
- Chronic discomfort or dryness
- The feeling of pressure in one eye
- The sensation of something stuck in your eye
- Pain or discomfort when you insert contact lenses
- Blurry vision or trouble seeing in low-light conditions
When to Seek Medical Attention
In general, it’s a good idea to seek the opinion of a medical professional if you aren’t sure what is causing your troubling eye symptoms. Severe pain and pressure are warning signs that should always be examined.
If you already know the cause — for example, if you struggle with severe migraine or optic neuritis due to multiple sclerosis — and your current treatment isn’t working, please schedule an appointment so that your provider can help you as soon as possible.
Home Remedies for Eye Pain
If you’re experiencing milder eye pain, home remedies can help alleviate your discomfort. Consider whether you’re experiencing pain on the surface of your eye or behind the eye before you decide on a treatment strategy.
- Ocular pain home remedies: Use over-the-counter eyedrops for scratchy, dry eyes. You can also place a cold compress over your eyes a few times a day. Consider taking a break from your phone and computer as screens cause you to blink less, which dries out your eyes.
- Orbital pain home remedies: When you feel pressure in one eye (or both), take over-the-counter medications to dull the pain. If you have sinus pain due to allergies, influenza, or a sinus infection, take appropriate medications for these conditions to prevent further complications. If you suspect that the feeling of pressure in your eyes and headache stems from an untreated toothache, don’t try to treat this at home. See your dentist to accurately diagnose the problem.
Understanding the Connection Between Your Mind and Eye Pain
Your mind plays a large role in every physical condition that manifests in your body. For example, if you experience migraines or tension headaches from stress, you understand the mind-body connection at work here. Identify any personal triggers that might factor into your eye pain.
If you struggle to manage a chronic pain condition that affects your eyes, like multiple sclerosis, learning more about mindfulness meditation may help decrease your body’s response to pain.
The Importance of Regular Eye Exams
Regular eye exams allow your eye doctor to evaluate your vision and check the health of your eyes. If you are experiencing any eye pain or discomfort, including headaches, blurry vision, and dryness, discuss this with your doctor during the appointment.