Sore Eyes: Everything you need to know - Causes & treatment

Sore eyes: What you need to know

sore eyes

Sore eyes is a common term used to describe the redness observed on the surface of your eye. It is typically accompanied by eye pains within your eye (orbital pain) or on the surface of your eye (ocular pain). Ocular pain is usually attributable to an eye inflammation, eye infection or even a foreign object entering your eye. When you experience ocular pain or sore eyes, you may also feel a burning, scratching or itching sensation. If you experience orbital pain inside your eye, you may feel a stabbing or throbbing pain. Generally, most forms of sore eyes subside without any medical treatment. However, eye pain accompanied with vision loss may indicate a serious medical condition [1]. Here’s what you need to know about sore eyes.

What are the causes of sore eyes?

There are a number of factors that can cause sore eyes, both ocular and orbital pain. The following are some examples of the different causes of sore eyes:

What are the causes of ocular pain? 

Presence of foreign bodies

The most common reason that may cause sore eyes is simply having a foreign body like a piece of dirt or an eyelash enter your eye and get trapped there

Conjunctivitis (‘pink eye’)

The conjunctiva refers to the tissue that lines the base of your eyelid and the front of your eye. When you have an eye infection or allergy, this layer of tissue may become infected and inflamed. You will then feel a mild pain as well as redness, discharge, and itchiness in your eye. 

Contact lens irritation

Inadequate disinfection of your contact lenses or wearing them to sleep may cause your eyes to feel dry and may result in a greater risk of getting sore eyes due to eye infections. 


When the oil glands along the edges of your eyelid get inflamed or infected, you may suffer from an eye condition called blepharitis, which is the inflammation of the eyelids that may also cause sore eyes.


You may develop a red and painful lump, known as a stye, on the edges of your eyelid or under the eyelid. It is usually caused by bacterial infection. Normally, the area around the stye would be sensitive to touch and also cause sore eyes.

Corneal abrasion

A corneal abrasion refers to a superficial scratch caused by dirt, sand, or other particles  on your cornea, that is, the clear  front surface of your eye that is vulnerable to injuries [2]. When you have a corneal abrasion, you may experience discomfort and pain that  may lead to sore eyes. Also, you may constantly feel that you have something in your eye that persists even when you attempt to flush your eye with water.

Eye pain due to irritants

When you are exposed to external irritants like excessively bright light, chemicals such as bleach, or cigarette smoke, it may cause your eye to feel burning sensations that may lead to sore eyes.


What are the causes of orbital pain? 


Glaucoma occurs as a result of increasing pressure inside the eyeball, which may also result in orbital pain. Some symptoms owing toglaucoma include headaches, nausea, and vision loss. If you experience acute angle closure glaucoma (a sudden increase in eye pressure), seek medical treatment immediately to prevent potentially permanent vision loss. 

Optic neuritis

You may contract a viral or bacterial infection that may cause inflammation to your optic nerve, which is the nerve bundle at the back of your eye that transmits information for vision in the form of electrical impulses to your brain. When this happens, you may have an eye condition known as optic neuritis. This eye condition can affect your vision and cause sore eyes.


When you suffer from a migraine attack, you are more likely to experience sore eyes as a typical side effect.

Injury to the eye due to trauma

Should you be involved in an eye accident or get hit in the eye, the internal structure of your eye may be injured and you may also get sore eyes.


The iris is the coloured tissue of your eye that also controls the size of your pupil (the black hole in the middle of your eye). When your iris is inflamed, you may develop an eye condition called iritis and you can feel pain deep inside your eye. 


What are some of the symptoms of sore eyes?

Sore eyes may accompany other symptoms such as (but not limited to):

  • Dry eye
  • Eye pain
  • Itchy eyes
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye discharge 
  • Fever 
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Fatigue


Contact your eye doctor immediately when you experience the following symptoms:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Vision loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain alongside eye pain
  • Sudden and major changes in vision
  • Seeing halos around lights 
  • Swelling around and in eyes
  • Eye pain due to light, chemical exposure or trauma 
  • Trouble keeping eyes open or moving eyes
  • Pus or blood oozing out of eyes 
  • Double vision


If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention from an eye health professional or eye doctor as soon as possible. Getting a comprehensive eye check up for these symptoms may prevent the development of serious sight-threatening conditions.


What are the treatment options for sore eyes?

Some common treatment options to treat sore eyes include the use of lubricating eye drops and warm or cold compress. An eye doctor may prescribe medications such as antihistamines or decongestants when required. There are also some home remedies that may help to ease the symptoms of sore eyes, but always consult an eye health professional or an eye doctor for advice on your condition before using any of such remedies.


How can you prevent sore eyes?

Prevention is better than cure. The best way to prevent your eyes from feeling sore (especially ocular pain) is to safeguard your eyes from the beginning.

One of the ways to prevent sore eyes is to maintain good hygiene practices when caring for your contact lenses. Disinfect your lenses completely and properly when they are not in use. Wear eyeglasses at times to give your eyes a rest and avoid going to sleep with your contact lenses on. Additionally, avoid touching your eyes directly with your hands or getting into situations where you are at a higher risk of being in contact with chemicals that can potentially hurt your eyes and cause irritation or burning sensations. Keep away from sharp objects or corners that could potentially injure your eyes. If your profession involves you working with chemicals or other hazardous objects or agents, it is advised to wear protective eyewear



[1] Mayo Clinic. 2021. Eye pain. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 September 2021].

[2] Mayo Clinic. 2021. Corneal abrasion (scratch): First aid. [online] Available at: <,of%20a%20piece%20of%20paper.> [Accessed 3 September 2021].

[3] Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Sinus Infection (Sinusitis): Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. [online] Available at: <,blocked%20and%20filled%20with%20fluid.> [Accessed 3 September 2021].

[4] Healthline. 2021. What You Need to Know About Eye Pain. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 September 2021].

[5] 2021. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 September 2021].

[6] 2021. Eye pain When to see a doctor – Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 September 2021].

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