Read below about pain in one eye, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your pain in one eye from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Pain in One Eye Symptoms

The eyes are among the most sensitive and important of all of our organs. If anything begins to go wrong with an eye, you will likely notice right away and become very protective of it.

Pain in only one eye is often a symptom of infection following some sort of trauma. Rubbing the eye when it feels dry or itchy can scratch the cornea, which is the clear tissue covering the surface of the eyeball. This will allow bacteria or other infectious agents to enter. [5,14] Eye infections can start suddenly and worsen quickly, so it is important to get professional care for symptoms of pain in one eye symptoms and not try to treat them yourself. [14]


Who is most often affected by pain in one eye?

  • Contact lens wearers. [5]
  • Those who had chickenpox as a child. [20]
  • Those who have had an autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, or type 1 diabetes. [8,21]
  • Those who have had a metabolic disorder such as type 2 diabetes. [21]
  • Those who have a serious systemic illness such as tuberculosis, because the infection can spread throughout the body and reach the eye. [9]
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system from chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or AIDS. [19]

Is pain in one eye serious?

  • A mild irritation that clears on its own within 24 hours is most likely not serious. [22]
  • Localized redness, swelling, and mild pain in one eye is probably not a threat to sight, but should still be treated by a medical provider. [22]
  • Sudden, severe pain with blurred vision and blank spots can be very serious and may lead to a loss of sight in one or both eyes. [22]

Pain in One Eye Causes

Causes include abnormal conditions involving the cornea, outlined in this section.

These are things that make the cornea susceptible to infectious agents:

  • Abnormal blinking, meaning the eyelids do not blink rapidly enough or close fully during blinking. [1]
  • The cornea may become dry from lack of tears and normal moisture. [1]
  • Degenerative disease of the cornea. [2]
  • Use of steroid eyedrops. [3]
  • Trauma, which can scratch or otherwise damage the cornea and allow infectious agents to get through it. [4]

    • Acute injury. [4]
    • Surgery. [4]

An actual infection of the cornea, due to:

  • Bacteria.

    • Contact lenses. [2]
    • Wearing lenses overnight or otherwise too long. [5]
    • Improper cleaning and storage of lenses. [5]
    • Infection of the eyelids that spreads to the damaged cornea. [5]
  • Fungus.

    • This is usually from plant material (earth, grass, leaves, etc.) being blown into the eyes. [6]
    • May also be due to contaminated contact lenses or solution. [2]

Infection of the middle layer of the eye, which is often seen with:

  • Autoimmune disorders. [7,8]
  • A weakened immune system. [8]
  • Untreated systemic bacterial or viral infections, since the infectious agents can spread through the bloodstream to the eyes. [9]

A build-up of fluid within the eyeball (glaucoma)

  • This can put pressure on the optic nerve and cause pain and blind spots. [10]

A flare-up of the virus that causes chickenpox.

  • If this occurs near the eye, it can interfere with vision. [11]

Rare and unusual causes:

  • Immunocompromised cases, such that person's immune system has been weakened due to illness or treatments such as:
  • Chemotherapy. [12]
  • Radiation therapy. [13]
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or HIV. [9]

10 Possible Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced pain in one eye. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

  1. 1.Foreign Body in the Eye

    Foreign bodies like windblown grit, wood or masonry, or flecks of metal can land in the eye and get stuck there, causing extreme discomfort.

    Prognosis depends on how quickly the wound heals and whether there is an infection.

    Top Symptoms:
    feeling of something in the eye
    Symptoms that always occur with foreign body in the eye:
    feeling of something in the eye
    In-person visit
  2. 2.Bacterial Conjunctivitis

    Bacterial conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye problems. It occurs from an infection of the whites of the eye.

    With treatment, bacterial conjunctivitis resolves in a a few days.

    Top Symptoms:
    sore throat, eye redness, eye itch, watery eye discharge, eye redness
    Symptoms that always occur with bacterial conjunctivitis:
    eye redness
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Vernal Conjunctivitis

    Vernal conjunctivitis is long-term (chronic) swelling (inflammation) of the outer lining of the eyes due to an allergic reaction. Vernal conjunctivitis often occurs in people with a strong family history of allergies, such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema.

    Most patients get better after puberty. If not, this becomes a chronic, seasonal problem

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    wateriness in both eyes, eye itch, eye redness, sensitivity to light, feeling of something in the eye
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Corneal Abrasion

    Corneal abrasion is a wound to the part of the eye known as the cornea. The cornea is the crystal clear (transparent) tissue that covers the front of the eye. It works with the lens of the eye to focus images on the retina.

    1-3 days

    Top Symptoms:
    blurry vision, sensitivity to light, constant eye pain, moderate eye pain, pain in one eye
    Symptoms that always occur with corneal abrasion:
    pain in one eye, wateriness in one eye, constant eye pain
    Phone call or in-person visit
  5. 5.Inflamed Eyelid (Blepharitis)

    Blepharitis is an eyelid issue where the skin, lashes, or glands become inflamed from an irritant or infection.

    Treatment and preventative measures may successfully control blepharitis.

    Top Symptoms:
    eye itch, sensitivity to light, eye redness, feeling of something in the eye, dry eyes
    Symptoms that never occur with inflamed eyelid (blepharitis):
    severe eye pain

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  6. 6.Chronically Dry Eyes

    Dry eye syndrome (medically known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca), occurs when there is a problem with the thin film of tears that keeps the eye moist and lubriated. This is a condition that can affect people of all ages, but becomes more common as one gets older. The causes include aging, some medications, increased evaporation of tears (due to low humidity in the air, low blink frequency, wearing contact lenses, or windy conditions), and underlying illness in rare cases.

    2-3 days of care at home.

    Top Symptoms:
    dry eyes, dry mouth, eye pain, feeling of something in the eye, sensitivity to light
    Symptoms that always occur with chronically dry eyes:
    dry eyes
  7. 7.Contact Lens - Related Eye Infection

    Millions of people wear contact lens daily without issue; however, there is a risk of infection. Often, infection is avoidable by keeping lenses clean.

    Recovery depends on type of infection.

    Top Symptoms:
    eye redness, wateriness in both eyes, sensitivity to light, constant eye redness, eye redness
    Symptoms that always occur with contact lens-related eye infection:
    eye redness, constant eye redness
    In-person visit
  8. 8.Acute Close - Angle Glaucoma

    Acute, close-angle glaucoma is caused by a rapid or sudden increase in pressure within the eye that occasionally results in permanent blindness.

    If treated promptly, permanent vision loss can be avoided. Laser therapy or surgical therapy are frequently used treatments

    Top Symptoms:
    headache, nausea or vomiting, vision changes, being severely ill, eye pain
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Anterior Uveitis

    Uveitis is the inflammation of of the blood vessels between the back and the front of the eye. "Anterior" uveitis is inflammation of the front of the eye: the iris (the round hole that light goes through) and the ciliary body (the muscles and connective tissue behind the eye's surface). Uveitis can affect adults and children, and there's typically no cause that can be identified.

    Good prognosis with proper treatment. Possible vision loss without treatment.

    Top Symptoms:
    constant eye pain, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, pain in one eye, wateriness in both eyes
    Symptoms that always occur with anterior uveitis:
    constant eye pain
    Hospital emergency room
  10. 10.Orbital Cellulitis

    Orbital cellulitis is a serious infection of the bony cavity (the orbit) which holds the eyeball. This condition affects the eye, eyelids, eyebrows, and cheeks, and causes the eyeball to have a swollen appearance. It can cause blindness if the infection is not treated.

    Antibiotic treatment for 3 weeks.

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, blurry vision, swelling of one eye, swelling of one eyelid, eye skin changes
    Symptoms that always occur with orbital cellulitis:
    eye skin changes, blurry vision
    Hospital emergency room

Pain in One Eye Treatments, Relief and Prevention

Seek immediate pain in one eye treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You have sudden, severe pain in one eye along with impaired vision, especially if there appears to be a spot on the surface of the eye. This is a medical emergency that can lead to permanent vision loss. Be sure to bring any contact lenses and cases with you, since the medical providers may want to culture them to find a possible organism causing the problem. [2,22]

Schedule an appointment for:

  • A sore, reddened, irritated eye with moderate pain and some discharge. Bring any contact lenses and cases with you to the appointment. [5,22]

Pain in one eye remedies that you can try at home:

  • For very mild symptoms you can use over-the-counter eyedrops, but if the symptoms do not clear up quickly you must visit a medical provider. [23]
  • Be aware of the limitations of wearing contact lenses and learn the proper way to care for your lenses and cases. [5]
  • Frequent and thorough hand washing, as well as touching your eyes as little as possible, will help greatly with avoiding any sort of eye infection. [23]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Pain in One Eye

  • Q.Do you feel like there is something in your eye?
  • Q.Have you noticed any vision changes?
  • Q.Do your eyelids feel sticky?
  • Q.Do you have dry eyes?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our pain in one eye symptom checker to find out more.

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Pain in One Eye Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced pain in one eye have also experienced:

    • 13% Headache
    • 4% Throbbing Headache
    • 4% Nausea
  • People who have experienced pain in one eye had symptoms persist for:

    • 47% Less Than a Day
    • 31% Less Than a Week
    • 11% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced pain in one eye were most often matched with:

    • 41% Foreign Body in the Eye
    • 33% Bacterial Conjunctivitis
    • 25% Vernal Conjunctivitis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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