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Why Do My Eyes Hurt? Common Conditions That Can Cause Sore Eyes

Dealing with sore or painful eyes can be an uncomfortable, frustrating experience. On top of the physical discomfort that eye pain can cause, there is also often the troubling uncertainty of not knowing what is causing the pain. When your eyes hurt, you may ask yourself, “Is this a cause for concern, or is this something that eyes just *do* sometimes?”

Let’s examine circumstances or conditions that can cause an eye to ache and help offer some clarity for why yours might be sore.

Components of the Eye That Can Feel Sore or Painful

Before we dive into possible conditions, let’s first look at the parts of the eye that can malfunction and cause soreness or pain.

  • Conjunctiva (the outermost layer of the eye, covering the sclera)
  • Cornea (the outermost layer of the eye, covering the iris and the pupil)
  • Extraocular muscles (the six muscles that control the eye’s movements)
  • Eyelids (the skin-and-tissue structures that offer needed protection)
  • Iris (the colorful ring around the pupil)
  • Nerves (the six nerves that connect your eyes to the nervous system/brain)
  • Orbit (the eye socket in the skull that houses your eye and eye muscles)
  • Sclera (the white area of the eye)

Eye Conditions That Can Cause Eyes to Hurt

From easy-to-treat eye infections to more serious ocular conditions, there are several reasons your eyes can feel sore or painful:


Blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelid, is a common issue patients develop that can lead to discomfort or pain. When the eye’s oil glands become clogged, it can cause swelling, irritation, and general pain. The swelling can also affect how well your eyelid stays open.

Blepharitis is easily treatable with eye drops from your eye doctor. You can soothe the pain with warm compresses and prevent future infections with proper eyelid care and hygiene.


Conjunctivitis, better known as “pink eye,” is a condition where the conjunctiva—the protective membrane around the sclera, or white part of the eyes—becomes inflamed. Whether it’s caused by allergies or an infection, conjunctivitis causes blood vessels in your eye to swell so that they look pink (hence the nickname “pink eye”).

Your eye doctor can treat bacterial or viral conjunctivitis with antibiotics or an eye ointment. Allergic conjunctivitis is most effectively treated with antihistamines, or over-the-counter allergy eye drops.

Contact Lens Irritation

If you wear contacts and do not take them out at night, disinfect them regularly, or store them properly, you could develop painful eye irritation. Not letting your cornea “breathe” enough or placing an unsanitized contact lens on the surface of your eye can also lead to infections, abrasions, and other painful complications.

Through a thorough eye exam, your eye doctor can evaluate the damage caused by improper contact use and offer a treatment to help restore your eye health. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, as well as recommendations not to wear your contacts while you heal.

Corneal Abrasion

When a foreign object comes in contact with the surface of your eye, you could experience a corneal abrasion, or a scratch on the cornea. Even a small scratch from a piece of dirt in the eye is enough to cause pain or soreness in the cornea. It’s also possible for an abrasion to lead to an infection if bacteria or a virus makes its way into the scratch.

Corneal abrasions are treated with antibiotic drops and usually heal after a few days.

Corneal Infection

As mentioned, corneal abrasions commonly lead to corneal infections if bacteria or a virus finds its way into the scratch on your cornea. It’s also possible to develop a corneal infection through improper contact lens use or hygiene. Sleeping in your contacts, not washing your hands before putting your lenses in or taking them out, and not sanitizing your lenses properly can all lead to the development of a corneal infection.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes, or dry eye syndrome, is a common condition that occurs when your tear ducts do not produce enough tears to lubricate the eyes. Your eyes require moisture for proper function and overall comfort. Without tears, your eyes will develop a painful, itchy, scratchy sensation that will not go away until your tear ducts begin functioning properly again.

If you have dry eyes, your eye doctor can design a treatment plan that may involve tear duct stimulation, medications, and other practical options to restore function and allow for proper eye lubrication again.


Glaucoma is a serious eye condition in which excessive pressure in the eye leads to permanent optic nerve damage. If not caught early or left untreated, glaucoma will cause permanent vision loss. For some patients, it also causes eye pain, especially for those who develop acute angle-closure glaucoma.

Glaucoma does not show signs until it’s too late, and many people do not experience the pain associated with the disease. For your best protection, it’s important to schedule routine eye exams so your doctor can detect development early and slow or even stop it from progressing further.


Major trauma to the eye, especially a cut in the eye, can lead to iritis, or inflammation of the iris. Certain autoimmune diseases or certain bacterial or viral infections can also cause it. Iritis is a rare, painful condition, and symptoms can vary in severity from eye pain, headaches, and light sensitivity to decreased vision, vision loss, and even total blindness.

Iritis is treatable through steroid eyedrops, antibiotics, or certain drugs and medications. If you have iritis, your ophthalmologist can evaluate your condition and create the best treatment plan for you.


Another common issue that can make your eyes sore is the development of a sty. Styes can develop on either your bottom or upper eyelid, and they are the result of an infection in the gland(s) of your eyelid. When the gland becomes infected, the eyelid’s surface may develop a painful, tender nodule that hurts to touch.

Stys tend to resolve on their own after a couple of days, but stubborn ones can often be treated with antibiotic ointment or steroid shots.

No matter what is causing your sore eyes, talk to the eye doctors at  Vision Eye Group for effective treatment and relief.

Whether you’re dealing with an eye infection or something much worse, our ophthalmologists and optometrists can treat your condition and relieve you of eye pain. Schedule an eye exam with our team today. During your appointment, tell us about your symptoms, and let us perform a thorough examination to get to the root of your sore eyes.

Call 478-744-1710 to schedule your appointment.


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