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The eyes are one of the most delicate and vital sensory organs in the human body. However, when the eyes experience discomfort or pain, it can be not only distressing but also a cause for concern. Eye pain, or ocular pain, can range from mild irritation to severe, debilitating discomfort.

Eye pain can be a symptom of various eye conditions and underlying health issues.

Here are some examples of conditions that can lead to eye pain:

Corneal abrasions are common eye injuries that frequently result from eye trauma, foreign bodies, and improper contact lens use. Patients typically present with severe eye pain and a foreign body sensation.

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) is a type of laser vision correction, refractive surgery to correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. PRK was the first type of laser eye surgery developed for vision correction and is the predecessor to the popular LASIK procedure. PRK recovery takes longer than recovery from LASIK eye surgery and can be quite painful.  PRK is still commonly performed and may offer advantages over LASIK for some patients.

Dry eye disease (DED) is a multifactorial disease of the ocular surface with loss of homeostasis of the tear film and ocular symptoms. Tear film instability and hyperosmolarity, ocular surface inflammation and damage, and neurosensory abnormalities play etiological roles. DED is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eye syndrome, and dysfunctional tear syndrome.  Severe DED can be quite painful. 


Risk factors for DED include:

  • Advanced age
  • Female sex
  • Hormonal changes (primarily due to decreased androgens)
  • Systemic diseases (eg, diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, Sjögren’s syndrome)
  • Contact lens wear
  • Systemic medications (antihistamines, anticholinergics, estrogens, isotretinoin, selective serotonin receptor antagonists, amiodarone, nicotinic acid)
  • Ocular medications (especially those containing preservatives)
  • Nutritional deficiencies (eg, vitamin A deficiency)
  • Decreased corneal sensation
  • Ophthalmic surgery (especially corneal refractive surgery)
  • Low-humidity environments