What Causes Sore Eyes? How to Treat It

Sore eyes are typically caused by irritation to the exposed portions of the eyeball. Know your cause and find the best treatments to relieve irritation.

Sore eyes can affect people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. Typically, this symptom is felt in the conjunctiva, but it can be felt in the eyeball as well. Eye pain can be caused by an infection such as conjunctivitis or "pink eye," allergies or a foreign particle coming in contact with the eye's surface. In addition to discomfort in the eyes, infections can cause swollen lymph nodes, runny nose or sore throat. Sneezing, coughing, or touching the eye can spread the bacteria or virus causing an eye infection to others.

Symptoms may include a red or pink hue on the whites of the eyes as the blood vessels darken. You may also feel a dry or itchy sensation near the eye which can add to your discomfort. On some occasions, the patient may experience sensitivity to light, difficulty opening the eyes after sleeping or discharge leaking from the eye.

Causes and Treatments of Sore Eyes

Sore eyes can be caused not only by the problem of the eye itself, but also by the problems around eyes. Sore eyes treatments depend very much on the cause. Below is a list of the common causes and the corresponding treatments.

1. Conjunctivitis

This disease is more commonly referred to as "pink eye." It is caused when the conjunctiva, or the membrane lining the eyeball and eyelid becomes inflamed. This can be caused by a bacterial, viral or chemical exposure that leads to irritation. Harsh chemicals, allergens, soaps or airborne irritants such as pollution or smoke can cause chemical conjunctivitis.


  • Your doctor can provide medication which will clear this infection so that the pain in the eye will be relieved.
  • Drinking gooseberry amla juice with honey is also said to help clear eye infections more effectively.
  • You can also try a warm or cool compress to get relief from the discomfort. Just take care not to cover both eyes with the same cloth if only one of your eyes is affected.
  • Discontinue the use of any contact lenses to let your eyes rest.

2. Dry Eyes

The eyes must remain lubricated in order to function properly. When the lacrimal or tear glands are not producing enough liquid to coat the eyes then they can become scratchy and irritated. They can also become excessively sensitive to outside stimuli as there are no tears to help wash away additional irritants.


  • Over the counter eye drops can provide lubrication that will relieve dry eyes. Those that have low tear production may need to apply artificial tear supplements to help avoid infections in the eyes caused by overexposure.
  • Rinsing the eyes with water or milk can also help relieve discomfort caused by dry eyes. Stay hydrated and try to keep the eyes closed as much as possible to stimulate natural tear production.
  • If possible, avoid environments that have dry or dusty air. Avoid air conditioned rooms or run a humidifier in your home to provide a stable environment for your eyes to relax. Avoid staring intently at items with small details or brightly lit screens until your eyes feel better.

3. Allergies

Exposure to pollen, pollution, dust and other irritants can cause the eyes to become puffy and sore. This is especially common in the summer, when "hay fever" is prevalent. As allergy triggers come in contact with the body, it can trigger an overreaction of the immune system. The body will attempt to purge itself of these irritants by creating excess mucus and causing the eyes to water. The skin, including that around the eyes can begin to itch.


Sore eyes treatment in this case is mainly aimed to relieve the allergy symptoms. Common treatments include:

  • Applying a cool compress to allergy strained eyes can help relieve much of this discomfort. Compresses including rose water, aloe vera gel or those made from chilled cucumbers are said to provide quick relief for itchy or sore eyes.
  • Applying a mixture of potato juice and oil may also help relax allergy-irritated eyes. Calm the immune system by taking antihistamines or decongestants so your other symptoms cannot further irritate your sore eyes.

4. Excessive Strain

Overusing the eyes can cause them to become fatigued which can lead to soreness. Performing tasks such as reading or staring at a bright screen for long periods of time can cause this sensation to occur. These tasks overwork the muscles and cause the body to blink less as the brain strains to keep its focus on the task. This will cause the eyes to dry out, causing additional discomfort.


  • When you begin to experience symptoms of eye strain, make a point of taking a break from the task you are participating in. Put on sunglasses when exposed to bright light to allow your eyes to relax.
  • If you have a job or hobby that requires you to stare intently at something for long periods of time, increase your intake of omega-3s and vitamin A to promote eye health. Increase your intake of liquids, including parsley, spinach or carrot juice to rehydrate and provide the eyes with necessary nutrients. Avoid rubbing the eyes as this can damage the swollen eye muscles.

Prevention of Sore Eyes

Sore eyes treatments for different causes vary and can help to relieve the discomfort. However, it is best if you can prevent eye soreness in the first place.

  • Keeping foreign particles including bacterial or viral matter out of the eyes is essential to avoiding eye pain. Wash your hands frequently and make a conscious effort to avoid touching the face when your hands are unwashed. Keep the hands away from the eyes as much as possible.
  • Do not share items such as makeup, eyeglasses or facial towels with others, especially those showing signs of an eye infection. Any items that may have become exposed to infectious materials, such as counters, pillow cases or clothing, should be disinfected regularly to avoid spreading bacterial growths that can cause the eyes to be uncomfortable.
  • When the eyes are sore, avoid using cosmetics such as mascara that can further irritate the area. Throw away cosmetics that may have been exposed to infectious material and wash the brushes used to apply your makeup regularly.
  • Avoid placing items such as eyedroppers in a position where they would come into direct contact with the eye and wash them after use to avoid contamination. Any medication such as an ointment that is prescribed for the area around the eye should be applied carefully so it does not come into contact with the eyeball.



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