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Severe, aching eye pain is often a sign of a more serious condition, such as a buildup of pressure inside the eyeball (glaucoma) or inflammation of the colored part of the eye (iritis). Call your doctor immediately to arrange for care that will prevent the condition from becoming worse and possibly causing blindness.
Some minor eye irritation is common with minor eye infections, such as pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Allergies or dryness in the eye may cause your eyes to feel sandy or scratchy.
When you have a viral illness that causes fever, such as influenza, it may hurt to move your eyes (such as when you look to the side without turning your head). This pain usually goes away as the illness improves.
A scratch on the cornea from an object in the eye, a fingernail, or a contact lens can be very painful.
If you wear contact lenses, pain may be a sign of an ulcerated cornea or other serious problem. Remove your lenses.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light or reflected glare (such as skiing without goggles or welding without protection) can produce severe pain in both eyes. The pain may not start until several hours after exposure. If you think your eye pain may be due to UV light exposure, see the topic Burns to the Eye.
Pain in the eye area can be from other problems in the face or head. Some conditions that may cause eye pain include:
Last Revised: November 2, 2011
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