Why Does Your Eye Hurt When You Blink?

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Why Does My Eye Hurt When I Blink?

Many different issues can cause your eye to hurt when you blink. Sometimes the pain clears on its own and there’s nothing to worry about. But there are times when painful blinking is a sign of something serious. How do you know what’s causing eye pain when blinking?

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Common Causes of Eye Pain

Some common causes of eye pain when you blink include:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Astigmatism
  • Blepharitis
  • Headaches
  • Corneal ulcer or scratches
  • Dry eyes
  • Debris or irritants
  • Iritis
  • Pink eye
  • Problems with contact lenses
  • Optic neuritis
  • Stye
  • Chalazion
  • Trauma to the face
  • Vision changes
  • Watery eyes

More Serious Causes of Eye Pain 

Sometimes more serious issues cause eye pain. For example:

  • Glaucoma
  • Bacterial infection
  • Eye injury
  • Burns

If you are concerned about eye pain, even if it doesn’t seem to be serious, it’s best to contact an eye doctor. 

How Can I Relieve Eye Pain At Home?

If eye pain is not serious and it’s your only symptom, it might be possible to resolve the issue at home. Sometimes better eye care is all that is needed — wearing sunglasses, updating a prescription, or getting more sleep. 

Other at-home remedies for eye pain include:

  • Warm compresses
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication
  • Artificial tears eye drops
  • Running a humidifier to reduce dry eyes
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants
  • Update your prescription
  • Upgrade your sunglasses and make sure you wear them any time you are outside
  • Adjust the lighting in your home
  • Reduce your screen time
  • Wear blue light glasses
  • Wash eyelids with no-tears shampoo 

When Should I Worry About Eye Pain When Blinking?

You should contact your doctor if symptoms last 48 hours or if the condition worsens within that time. It’s also important to seek medical attention if you experience blinking pain in addition to other symptoms, including:

  • Pain with eye movement
  • Pressure
  • Inflammation or swelling in the eyelid or along the lash line
  • Pain or sensitivity to light
  • Facial tenderness, especially around your sinuses
  • Fever

Sometimes eye pain is a sign of a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience pain while blinking, along with:

  • Impaired or blurry vision
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Halos around lights
  • Difficulty closing your eyes
  • Severe pain when you touch your eye

It is appropriate to visit the emergency room or call 911 if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Risks & Complications of Eye Pain When Blinking

Eye pain when blinking is usually not serious. However, there is a risk of losing sight or having sight affected depending on the cause of the pain. 

Diagnosing & Treating Eye Pain

Doctors check the surface of the eye first and then look deeper when a patient reports pain when blinking. Sometimes it’s easy to diagnose the cause of the pain. For example, if it’s caused by a foreign object, a doctor sees the object and removes it. But if there is a deeper underlying cause, it can take time to find the cause and determine the most appropriate treatment.

Treatment options for pain when blinking varies based on the cause. Common causes and treatments include:

  • Conjunctivitis (medicated drops or ointment)
  • Corneal abrasion (eye drops and pain medication)
  • Chemical burns (anesthetic eye drops and water flush to rebalance the eye’s pH level)
  • Blepharitis (at-home washing of the eye with no-tears shampoo)
  • Styes and chalazion (warm compresses and antibiotic ointment)
  • Glaucoma (varies based on severity, ranging from glaucoma eye drops to oral medications to surgery)
  • Iritis (eye drops, steroids, anti-inflammatory agents)
  • Optic neuritis (varies based on the underlying cause)
  • Sinusitis (oral antibiotics)
  • Headaches (OTC and prescription medications)
  • Injuries (varies based on the specific injury)

Common Questions and Answers

Can eye pain be caused by a lack of sleep?

Yes, especially if you have sleep problems over an extended period. Pain is usually accompanied by redness, swelling, and dryness. If you’re thinking “my eyelid hurts when I blink,” try going to bed earlier or implementing other strategies to help you sleep better.

Does stress cause eye pain?

Yes. Stress causes headaches, which leads to eye pain. Some people experience blurriness, dizziness, or pain in their eyes when stressed, but this isn’t common. In most cases, pain in the eyes caused by stress is indirectly linked and due to stress headaches.

Which eye drop is best for eye pain?

The best eye drop for eye pain varies based on the cause of the pain. If you are experiencing eye pain due to dryness or general irritation or if it hurts to blink, an OTC substitute tears drop is sufficient. But if your eye pain is linked to an infection or something more serious, you’ll likely need to visit your doctor for the most appropriate drops. Some conditions also require anti-inflammatory eye drops or anesthetic eye drops.

What causes sudden eye pain?

In many cases, the sudden onset of eye pain is due to sinusitis. Sinusitis is a reaction in the sinuses linked to allergies or a bacterial or viral infection. Migraines and cluster headaches are also a common cause of sudden eye pain.

Why do my eyes hurt in the sun?

If you’ve noticed your eyes hurt when you’re outside in the sun, you aren’t imagining it. When you transition from a dim environment into bright sunlight, your pupils must go from dilated to constricted. You may feel discomfort initially while your eyes adjust to the light. 

If you experience increased sensitivity to sunlight and the discomfort does not go away after allowing your eyes to adjust, there could be an underlying condition. These conditions include dry eye, uveitis, corneal abrasions, and migraines, among others.

How do you know if eye pain is serious?

It’s important to recognize when eye pain could be serious. Knowing when to seek medical attention helps protect your vision and avoid further complications. You should take eye pain seriously if you experience other symptoms in addition to pain. This is especially true when the symptoms include seeing “floaters,” losing vision or experiencing vision changes, or feeling pain in response to an injury or a recent eye surgery.

What does it mean if your eye hurts when you look up?

If the pain in your eye occurs or is more severe when looking up, it’s likely caused by sinusitis or inflammation. In some cases, your doctor will order an MRI to determine if the pain is linked to a problem with your orbit or optic neuritis. Sometimes pain in the eyes when looking up is accompanied by blurred vision or tingling sensations elsewhere in your body.

Is eye pain a sign of stroke?

In most cases, the pain will not precede or accompany an eye stroke. Most people who experience eye stroke notice a loss of vision, a dark area or shadow in their vision, and light sensitivity, typically without pain.

Resources
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“Eye Pain When to See a Doctor.” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/eye-pain/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050744

“Pain-Relieving Eye Drops.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 27 Feb. 2019, www.aao.org/eye-health/treatments/pain-relieving-eye-drops.

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