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Why Does My Eye Hurt When I Blink?

We’ve all expe­ri­enced eye pain when blink­ing. Usu­al­ly, it lasts a few moments and we for­get all about it. But if it hap­pens often, there could be some­thing going on beyond get­ting caught in a dust storm or col­laps­ing on a dusty sofa.

Check Your Eyes for Conjunctivitis or Stye

Stye and con­junc­tivi­tis are both easy to observe on an eye and can appear as sud­den­ly as painful blink­ing.

  • A stye is an infec­tion that starts in the eye­lash­es or the oil glands, on the upper or low­er eye­lid. The lid becomes red and swollen, result­ing in pain when blink­ing.
  • Con­junc­tivi­tis is an inflam­ma­tion of the con­junc­ti­va, the clear lin­ing over the eye­ball sur­face. The scle­ra (white part of the eye) becomes pink or red — the rea­son why this is also called pink­eye. The eye feels sore, and blink­ing does not pro­vide relief.

The stye is usu­al­ly caused by bac­te­ria while a virus or aller­gy is usu­al­ly behind con­junc­tivi­tis. Except for aller­gic con­junc­tivi­tis, both are con­ta­gious.

An infec­tion in the tear ducts will inter­fere with tear pro­duc­tion. Since the whole point of blink­ing is to spread tears to lubri­cate the eye sur­face, blink­ing with­out tears will be painful.

Did You Injure Your Eye?

Why does my eye­lid hurt?” you may won­der. Well, did you rub your eyes a bit vig­or­ous­ly when you woke up? You may have injured your eye and eye­lid.

Here are oth­er ways you can inad­ver­tent­ly injure your eye­lid:

  • Too much sun. Wear sun­glass­es if you’re going to be out in the bright sun­light. Ultra­vi­o­lent light can burn your eye­lids which are, after all, pret­ty thin.
  • Splash­es. A splash of soap or deter­gent can be pret­ty irri­tat­ing to del­i­cate eye­lid skin
    • Any eye con­tact with chem­i­cals will be irri­tat­ing or painful. Rinse the eye with cold water or ster­ile saline solu­tion and get med­ical atten­tion ASAP.

Certain Eye Inflammations Cause Eye Pain When Blinking

As we’ve not­ed, the eyes are del­i­cate, and it doesn’t take much to make them inflamed. Some con­di­tions that cause eye inflam­ma­tion con­tribute to painful eye­lids as well.

  • Ble­phar­i­tis starts around the base of the eye­lash­es and pro­duces clumps of scaly skin and can be chron­ic. We don’t know what caus­es it and it is not con­ta­gious. It makes the eye­lids sticky, mak­ing blink­ing uncom­fort­able.
  • Optic neu­ri­tis inflames the optic nerve and caus­es pain when mov­ing the eyes and eye­lids. Extreme cas­es can lead to vision loss.
  • Sinusi­tis is usu­al­ly caused by a virus and can make every­thing on the face painful — includ­ing eye­lids.

Some Diseases and Conditions Cause Painful Blinking

In addi­tion to inflam­ma­tion, cer­tain dis­eases affect blink­ing or make it uncom­fort­able, if not painful. Most, but not all, orig­i­nate in the eye.

  • Dry eye dis­ease (or syn­drome) inter­feres with tear pro­duc­tion. Since the pur­pose of blink­ing is to spread tears, dry blink­ing is going to be painful.
  • Graves dis­ease is an autoim­mune dis­ease caused by an over­ac­tive thy­roid that pro­duces too much hor­mone. Some Graves patients expe­ri­ence bulging eyes and inflam­ma­tion, mak­ing it painful to blink.
  • Ker­ati­tis is caused by a viral or bac­te­r­i­al infec­tion in the eye that makes the sur­face feel grit­ty; blink­ing does not ease the feel­ing.
  • A corneal ulcer can devel­op after a scratch or infec­tion on the eye sur­face. Blink­ing on them can be quite painful.

Almost all con­di­tions that lead to painful blink­ing can be suc­cess­ful­ly treat­ed or at least con­trolled. Check out our blog for more infor­ma­tion about eye con­di­tions, dis­eases, symp­toms, treat­ments, and pre­vent­ing eye injury and dis­ease.

February 28th, 2019|Comments Off on Why Does My Eye Hurt When I Blink?

About the Author:

Born in Connecticut and raised in Upstate New York , Dr. Stetson graduated Cum Laude from Colgate University in New York, and then earned an MD degree with honors at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He distinguished himself again in residency at the Albany Medical Center, where he obtained the highest percentile in the Ophthalmology Knowledge Assessment Examinations. Dr. Stetson has performed more than 50,000 refractive surgeries and has been on staff at Diamond Vision since 2004, before becoming Medical Director in 2006.


If you would like to schedule a free consultation or ask one of our amazing staff a quick question, text "Diamond Ready" to (917) 881-3938 between 9am-6pm (M-F) and we will be here to help you!