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I Feel Pain in the Eye When I Blink: Should I Be Worried?

The eye is a very sensitive and important organ. While you may feel some pain in the eyes when you blink for reasons that shouldn’t concern you, this is not a symptom to ignore. In some cases, the pain may be a sign of a serious underlying eye condition.

Below we will explore everything there is to know from what you can ignore to what you should be careful about. Let’s get started.

 

Common Causes of Pain When You Blink

According to research, some of the most common causes include pink eye, dry eyes, and a stye (1).

 

 

 

1. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye is a common viral eye infection. The condition can also be caused by a bacterial infection or allergic reaction affecting the conjunctiva (membrane lining the eyeball and eyelid). As the name suggests, the condition causes the white part of the eye (iris) to appear pink or reddish (2).

Main Pink Eye Symptons 

  • Pain when blinking
  • Red eyes (on the iris)
  • Eye Irritation (on one/both eyes)
  • Gritty feeling (as if you have something in your eye/s)
  • Tearing
  • Light sensitivity

While pink eye is uncomfortable, it doesn’t affect vision in most cases. However, you may need treatment depending on the underlying cause.

 

Pink Eye Treatment

You should see a doctor immediately if you experience pink eye symptoms since the condition is contagious. If your eye doctor finds the cause to be a virus, the infection will go away on its own without treatment. If the underlying cause is bacteria, you should get antibiotic medication i.e., eye drops/ointment.

 

2. Dry Eyes

You could also be feeling pain when you blink because of dry eye disease – a condition that occurs when you don’t produce enough tears to effectively lubricate your eyes or when your tears evaporate faster than normal. 

The main causes are linked to the disruption of the eye’s tear film which has a mucus layer, aqueous fluid layer, and fatty oily layer

These layers may stop working effectively to lubricate the eyes because of hormonal changes, eye allergies, inflammation of eyelid oil glands, autoimmune conditions, aging, some medications, deficiencies (Vitamin A), etc (3)

 

Main Dry Eye Disease Symptoms

  • Pain when you blink
  • Burning, scratchy, or stinging sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stringy mucus around/in your eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Gritty feeling (as if you have something in your eye/s)
  • Eye fatigue and/or blurry vision

Given the variety of underlying causes and seriousness of some symptoms, it’s advisable to seek medical attention if you feel pain when you blink and experience many other symptoms above.

 

Dry Eyes Treatment

Your eye doctor may prescribe dry eye treatment based on severity. You may get special contact lenses that trap moisture and prevent/slow down drying. Procedures may be recommended i.e., vision therapy to ease symptoms (4).

 

3. A Stye

Your pain could also be due to a stye (hordeolum) – an infection of the eyelid gland. The main cause of the eyelid infection is bacteria (staph) (5)

Main Symptoms of a Stye

  • Pain when you blink
  • Redness
  • Swelling of the eyelid/s
  • Tear production
  • Gritty feeling (foreign body sensation)

 

Stye Treatment

Styes are contagious and come with many uncomfortable symptoms. As you take important actions like washing your hands and face regularly, you still need to seek proper treatment. In many cases, eye doctors prescribe antibiotic ointments or creams. In severe cases, you may need to see an eye specialist for further treatment.

 

4. Other Causes

Other not-so-serious but common causes of eye pain when you blink include eye debris and eye injury i.e. when you scratch your eye accidentally.

 

Serious Causes of Pain When You Blink

Pink eye, dry eyes, a stye, debris in the eye, or an accidental scratch shouldn’t be a strong cause for concern. If the symptoms persist, it’s advisable to see an eye doctor. However, you should be more concerned about the causes below.

 

1. Optic Neuritis

If you experience some serious pain, you could be suffering from optic neuritis which is a severe inflammation of the optic nerve (nerve connecting the brain to the eyes).

Most common symptoms of Optic Neuritis

  • Severe eye pain (during eye movement including blinking)
  • Temporary loss of vision 
  • Loss of colour perception
  • Flashing lights

 

Optic Neuritis Treatment

If you have a single episode of symptoms, such as temporary vision loss, you can recover without treatment. However, since there’s a possibility of optic neuritis leading to permanent vision loss if the condition isn’t treated, you should see a doctor immediately.

 

2. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that can cause blindness if left untreated. It occurs when the optic nerve is damaged. The damage happens over time and is linked to several causes/risk factors, among them being genetic causes, eye injury, some medication, and some underlying conditions i.e. diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, and high blood pressure.

Main Symptoms of Glaucoma

  • Severe pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye redness
  • Halos around light (coloured rings around lighting)
  • Increased blinking (common among infants)
  • Gradual side vision loss (6) 

 

Glaucoma Treatment

If you suspect your eye pain, among other symptoms, could be linked to glaucoma, you need to visit your eye doctor immediately to get an accurate diagnosis. Glaucoma is best diagnosed through a dilated eye exam (7). After the diagnosis, glaucoma management is recommended to manage the disease.

 

Final Thoughts

Clearly, there are many reasons for feeling pain when you blink. These reasons range from common (not so serious) causes that can be contained with a cool compress, to very serious reasons that require immediate medical attention.

Generally, you should be worried about pain that is accompanied by new, worsening, and/or unusual symptoms as such pain can lead to permanent damage or vision loss. If you are unsure of why your eye might be hurting, we recommend you seek medical attention immediately!

Luckily, if you reside in Toronto, you can visit Fairlawn Eye Care, a renowned eye clinic with 40+ years of experience (since 1982) caring for Toronto’s vision needs.

Get a comprehensive eye exam to establish the underlying cause of your eye pain. Fairlawn Eye Care also handles ocular emergencies just in case your eye pain is linked to any type of injury or related eye emergencies.

BOOK AN APPOINTMENT. Email: info@fairlawneyecare.com or CALL: (416)-482-5352 to ask questions about eye pain. Google maps.

 

References

[1] Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/eye-hurts-when-i-blink#_noHeaderPrefixedContent

[2] Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pink-eye/symptoms-causes/syc-20376355#:~:text=Pink%20eye%20is%20most%20often,the%20discomfort%20of%20pink%20eye.

[3] Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371863

[4] Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371869

[5] Johns Hopkins: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hordeolum-stye#:~:text=points%20about%20styes-,A%20stye%20(hordeolum)%20is%20a%20tender%20red%20bump%20on%20the,and%20swelling%20of%20the%20eyelid

[6] Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839#:~:text=If%20you%20experience%20symptoms%20that,doctor’s%20(ophthalmologist’s)%20office%20immediately.

[7] Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/optic-neuritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354953