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.