Updated on  February 21, 2024
5 min read

My Eyes Hurt When I Move Them – What Should I Do?

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Eye pain can be alarming, but it’s not always cause for concern. Your eyes may hurt when you move them for a variety of reasons.

If you are experiencing eye pain when you move your eyes, and it’s not going away, talk to your eye doctor. An eye care professional can help you determine the cause of your eye pain and find a treatment that works.

Here are potential reasons for your eye pain and some treatments to consider.

8 Potential Reasons Why Your Eyes Hurt When You Move Them

The following are reasons why you might be experiencing eye pain:

1. Overactive Thyroid

An overactive thyroid is sometimes also referred to as a hyperactive thyroid. It affects the thyroid gland in your neck, which produces the hormone thyroxine. If this gland produces an excess of thyroxine, it can cause a metabolic imbalance.6

Hyperthyroidism can also cause the eyes to swell and protrude, which can be accompanied by pain.6

Other Symptoms

  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Exhaustion
  • Increased hunger
  • Sweating
  • Changes to menstrual cycle
  • Changes to bowel habits
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Thinning skin
  • Brittle hair

2. Orbital Cellulitis

Orbital cellulitis refers to an infection of the orbit, which is the bone cavity that holds your eyeball. This infection can irritate your eyes, eyelids, and even your eyebrows and cheeks. Pain and swelling are likely.7

If left untreated, orbital cellulitis can lead to severe vision impairment and even blindness.7

Other Symptoms

  • Proptosis (bulging of the eyes)
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain and swelling of the eyelids, eyebrows, and cheeks

3. Something Stuck in Your Eye

If you have something stuck in your eye, like dust, dirt, or debris, it can cause irritation, redness, swelling, and pain. Something that’s lodged in your eye can also scratch your eye and cause an infection, which leads to pain and other issues.5

Other Symptoms

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty keeping the eye open
  • Trouble seeing clearly

4. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is a serious disease affecting the central nervous system (CNS). It happens when the body’s immune system attacks the nerves (including the optic nerve), causing sclerosis, which is irreversible scarring.8

This scarring interferes with the brain’s signals to the body, which can affect the eyes, among other parts of the body.

Optic neuritis, a condition characterized by inflammation of the optic nerves, is a prevalent symptom of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Approximately 70% of MS patients experience optic neuritis at some stage in their lives.

Other Symptoms

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Partial paralysis
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Blindness
  • Blurred vision

5. Allergies

Allergies can occur due to specific allergens like dust or pet dander, or they can occur seasonally. Either way, allergies can cause redness, swelling, and itchiness of the eyes. All of this can cause pain in the eyes, as well.1

Other Symptoms

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Pink eye

6. Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a wound to the cornea. The cornea is the transparent tissue that coats the front of your eye. Scratching the cornea can cause mild or serious eye pain.4

Getting something stuck in your eye or improper use of contacts can cause corneal abrasions.4

Other Symptoms

  • Eye strain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Irritation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headaches
  • Impaired vision
  • Pink eye
  • Eye injury

7. Common Cold

The common cold is a contagious viral infection. It’s considered the “common” cold because it is indeed very common. Still, it can cause a whole bunch of unpleasant symptoms, including eye pain.3

Other Symptoms

  • Coughing
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Red and irritated eyes
  • Headache
  • Sinus infection
  • Pink eye

8. Anterior Uveitis

Anterior uveitis refers to inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. It also affects the ciliary body, which are the muscles and connective tissues behind the surface of the eye.2

Other Symptoms2

  • Red eyes
  • Soreness
  • Inflammation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Small pupil
  • Irregularly shaped pupil
  • Impaired vision
  • Vision loss

When to See Your Doctor

If you are experiencing eye pain that has not subsided in the last few days, consult your doctor. If your eye pain worsens, you should also talk to your doctor.

While eye pain may not be anything serious, it can be a symptom of a bigger issue. Even if it’s just the common cold causing your eye pain, getting treatment right away can help you feel better faster.

How is Eye Pain Diagnosed? 

Only an eye care doctor can diagnose your eye pain. 

Your doctor may ask you some simple questions:

  • What does the pain feel like?
  • Does it feel like you have something stuck in your eye?
  • Do your eyes feel sensitive to light?
  • Do your eyelids feel crusty or sticky at times?
  • Have you noticed any changes to your vision?

From there, your eye doctor will run a series of tests to determine the cause of your eye pain and treat you accordingly.

Treatment for Eye Pain 

Treatment for eye pain depends entirely on the root cause of your eye pain.

If you have a cold, you will need to treat the cold. Over-the-counter anti-allergens may help relieve some eye pain.

If you’re struggling with something stuck in your eye, you need to remove the object causing the pain. An eye care solution can flush out dirt particles and help dislodge any objects that may be stuck in your eye. 

A bigger health issue, like an overactive thyroid, will need medication. Other health conditions, like MS, may even involve physical therapy. 


If you’re feeling eye pain when you move your eyes, rest assured that the pain may not be a sign of something bigger. You might only be dealing with a common cold or allergies. However, eye pain that persists and is accompanied by other serious symptoms may be cause for concern.

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pain behind your eyes that’s not going away or is worsening. If necessary, your doctor will be able to prescribe an effective treatment for your condition.

Updated on  February 21, 2024
8 sources cited
Updated on  February 21, 2024
  1. Allergies.” NHS Choices, NHS. 
  2. Anterior Uveitis.” AOA.org.
  3. Common Cold.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  4. Corneal Abrasion and Erosion.” AAO.
  5. Feeling of an Object in the Eye: Care Instructions.” MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal.
  6. Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid).” Medline Plus.
  7. Ioana Baiu, MD. “Periorbital and Orbital Cellulitis.” JAMA Network.
  8. Multiple Sclerosis.” Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI).
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.