What causes redness and pain in the eye and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Redness and pain in the eye can be a distressing and uncomfortable experience. It can be caused by various factors, ranging from minor irritations to more serious underlying conditions. Understanding the causes of eye redness and pain is crucial in order to seek appropriate treatment and find relief. In this article, we will explore the common causes of eye redness and pain and discuss effective ways to treat and alleviate these symptoms.

Eye Redness: What Causes It?

Eye redness, also known as red eye, occurs when the blood vessels in the white part of the eye become dilated or swollen. This can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to substances such as pollen, dust, or pet dander can cause eye redness and irritation.
  • Conjunctivitis: Commonly known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the white part of the eye. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, allergies, or irritants.
  • Dryness: Insufficient tear production or excessive evaporation of tears can lead to dry eyes, causing redness and discomfort.
  • Foreign Body: When a foreign object, such as dust or an eyelash, enters the eye, it can cause redness and pain.
  • Eye Strain: Prolonged use of digital devices, reading in poor lighting conditions, or focusing on a single task for an extended period can strain the eyes, resulting in redness and discomfort.

Eye Pain: What Are the Possible Causes?

Eye pain, also referred to as painful eye, can have various causes. Some common factors that may contribute to eye pain include:

  • Corneal Abrasion: A scratch or injury to the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, can cause severe eye pain.
  • Eye Infections: Infections such as keratitis or uveitis can lead to eye pain, along with other symptoms like redness, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.
  • Glaucoma: Increased pressure within the eye can cause eye pain, as well as vision loss if left untreated.
  • Migraines: Some individuals experience eye pain as a symptom of migraines, which are severe headaches often accompanied by visual disturbances.
  • Sinusitis: Inflammation of the sinuses can cause referred pain to the eyes, resulting in discomfort.

Treating Eye Redness and Pain

Home Remedies and Self-Care

If you experience mild eye redness and pain, there are several self-care measures you can take to find relief:

  • Apply a cold compress: Placing a cold compress or ice pack over closed eyes can help reduce inflammation and soothe the eyes.
  • Use artificial tears: Lubricating eye drops can provide temporary relief from dryness and irritation.
  • Avoid irritants: If you have identified specific triggers, such as allergens or certain cosmetics, try to avoid them to prevent further irritation.
  • Take breaks from digital devices: If eye strain is the cause of your symptoms, take regular breaks from screens and practice the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Medical Treatment

If home remedies do not provide sufficient relief or if your symptoms worsen, it is important to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can diagnose the underlying cause of your eye redness and pain and recommend appropriate treatment options. These may include:

  • Prescription eye drops: Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medicated eye drops to reduce inflammation, treat infections, or manage allergies.
  • Antibiotics: If your symptoms are caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: In cases of severe inflammation or conditions like uveitis, oral or topical anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary.
  • Corneal abrasion treatment: If you have a corneal abrasion, your doctor may recommend antibiotic ointments or eye patches to promote healing.
  • Surgery: In certain cases, such as glaucoma or severe eye injuries, surgical intervention may be required to alleviate pain and preserve vision.

It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and complete the full course of any prescribed medications to ensure proper healing and prevent complications.


Eye redness and pain can be caused by various factors, ranging from minor irritations to more serious conditions. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial in order to seek appropriate treatment and find relief. While home remedies and self-care measures can provide temporary relief for mild symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms persist or worsen. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most cases of eye redness and pain can be effectively managed, allowing for improved comfort and overall eye health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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