Why Do My Eyes Hurt?

Eye Health

Aug 30, 2018


From dry weather to foreign objects, many things can irritate your eyes.

Irritated eyes can be a mere annoyance or a sign of a larger problem, so you don’t want to ignore your symptoms.

5 Reasons Your Eyes Hurt & Solutions for Relief

Here are the top five things that could be bothering your eyes and some solutions for quick relief.

1. Allergies

Can allergies make your eyes hurt? Yes.

Your eyes are the first to let you know when it’s allergy season. Eye allergies share symptoms with some eye diseases, which makes accurate diagnosis difficult. You could be suffering from allergic conjunctivitis if your eyes are:

  • Itchy
  • Swollen
  • Red
  • Watery
  • Burning

Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the whites of your eyes. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is the most common type of eye allergy. People typically experience symptoms during seasonal changes depending on the type of pollen in the air.

You can avoid seasonal allergy irritation by making small changes to your home and behavior, including:

  • Wearing protective eyewear while outdoors to keep pollen out of your eyes
  • Washing your hands after being around animals
  • Keeping windows closed during high pollen seasons
  • Using filtered air conditioning in your car and home
  • Buying bedding that limits exposure to dust mites
  • Running a dehumidifier to regulate mold

Some temporary solutions are:

  • Allergy pills or shots
  • Artificial tears
  • Over-the-counter decongestant eye drops
  • Non-sedating oral antihistamines
  • A cool compress to soothe itching

Less common types of allergic conjunctivitis include:

Perennial allergic conjunctivitis: Occurs year-round, usually in response to indoor allergies like mold and dust mites

Vernal keratoconjunctivitis: Most often affects young males, especially in warmer weather

Atopic keratoconjunctivitis: Results from the overproduction of antibodies, most often impacts teenage and young adult males

2. Contact Lenses

Whether you’re new to contacts or you’ve been wearing them for years, you have probably felt some level of contact-related discomfort. If you don’t take care of your contact lenses, they can irritate your eyes and make them drier in the long run. Common types of contact irritation are:

Contact Allergic Conjunctivitis: Proteins in your tears can bind to the surface of your contact lenses and irritate your eyes.

Symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Discomfort
  • Mucous discharge
  • Redness

Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis: This is a more severe form of contact allergic conjunctivitis.

Individual fluid sacs form in the upper lining of the inner eyelid, causing symptoms like:

  • Blurred vision
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Itching
  • Mucous discharge
  • Puffiness
  • Poor tolerance for wearing contact lenses
  • Tearing

Other causes of contact-related eye irritation are improper fit and wearing lenses for too long. If your eyes are already red and irritated, do not wear your contacts. Be sure to disinfect your contacts and replace them as suggested. If dry, irritated eyes persist, consider a different type of lens.

3. Foreign Objects

Micro objects like dirt, sand, and sawdust can accidentally enter the eye and cause irritation. If a foreign object makes contact with the eye, it can scratch the cornea or conjunctiva. While these injuries are usually minor and the substances can’t get lost behind the eyeball, you may experience infection or vision loss.

Some symptoms of foreign objects in the eye are:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Extreme tearing
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pressure
  • Redness or bloodshot eyes

If something feels stuck in your eye, try to wash it with water. Do not rub or put pressure on your eye. Keep your eyes closed and visit a doctor if the pain persists.

4. Infection

Bacterial viruses often cause eye irritation. Infection typically starts in one eye and can spread to the other or infect people you are in close contact with. Some common types of eye infections are:

Pink eye: Infection of your conjunctiva, usually gives the eye a pink tint.

Keratitis: Infection of your cornea caused by bacteria in water.

Stye: Painful red bump at the base of the eyelashes or under the eyelid.

Fungal eye infection: Typically caused by your eye being scratched by a plant.

Uveitis: Infection of the middle layer of your eye.

Old makeup and extended wear contacts are more likely to give you an infection. Symptoms are similar to allergy-caused irritation: blurred vision, sensitivity to light, pain, and redness.

Depending on the infection, you may need eyelid creams, oral prescriptions, or eyedrops. Use a cool compress to relieve itchiness.

5. Medical Conditions

There are numerous medical conditions that cause eye irritation as a side effect due to the disease itself or the medication prescribed. Conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome, blepharitis, and rheumatoid arthritis all cause dry eye. Some other symptoms include:

  • Feeling like something is in your eye
  • Crusted over eyelids/lashes
  • Flakes at the bases of lashes
  • Eyelashes that grow in the wrong direction
  • Redness and itching

Other conditions like glaucoma are eye-specific and cause actual damage within the eye, which results in irritation. Sinus infections can cause pressure buildup and create irritation that way.

If you have a medical condition or are on long-term medication, ask your doctor if eye irritation is a side effect. If irritation persists, medications for chronic dry eye can be prescribed.

Preventing Eye Irritation

Many common substances can make your eyes itchy, like chlorinated pool water and tobacco smoke. Keep eyes moist by steering clear of these types of irritants. Give your eyes a break by replacing mascara often and not sharing makeup. Wear sunglasses outside and safety goggles around machinery. Use a humidifier when your home feels too dry.

Keep Your Eyes Healthy With Complete Care

Whether your irritation is a one-time occurrence, seasonal or constant, your local Complete Care offers a variety of services that can help. Our experts have experience treating all eye emergencies and can get you in and out in no time with our advanced emergency medicine and short wait times.

For more information, contact us online today.