Among the other symptoms dry eyes can cause, patients may experience eye pain.
Dry eye can be caused by a number of things, including environmental conditions, issues which lead to decreased tear production or poor quality tears. What all causes of dry eye have in common, however, is that they lead to irritation in the eyes. If steps aren’t taken to correct the problem or at least to alleviate symptoms by lubricating the eyes, this discomfort can get worse, and eventually progress to pain.
The cornea of the eyes has a greater density of nerve and receptors than almost ever part of the body, with the density of nerve endings in the center of the cornea being about 7,000 per square millimeter.
This very high amount of nerve endings and receptors in the cornea is the reason the eye is so sensitive to surface damage (including damage from dry eye), and why even minor abrasions to the cornea can be extremely painful.
Most of the time, when people think of dry eye, they think of a more mild irritation. Annoying and uncomfortable, but not exactly painful. However, more severe cases of dry eye, especially if it is not promptly treated, can absolutely lead to pain through increased inflammation and even damage to the surface of the eye.
Additionally, dry eye can also cause light sensitivity and headaches. Each of these conditions can lead to additional discomfort as well as pain behind the eyes.
A cross-sectional study showed that increasing pain was significantly associated with:
Perhaps more noteworthy is that the same study showed that patients with greater pain severity were less responsive to standard treatment options for dry eye. These included treatment with artificial tears, lubricating ointment, steroid eye drops, cyclosporine 0.05% , 20% autologous serum tears, hot compresses, lid hygiene and punctal occlusion .
If you are experiencing eye pain as a result of dry eye, the obvious thing to do is work on treating the dry eye causing the pain. There are a wide range of treatment options, ranging from artificial tears to vitamin supplements to more complex in-office care. While the research is still in its infancy, it indicates that someone who suffers from severe pain from dry eye should consider more advanced in-office treatments for dry eye.
For this reason, if you are experiencing dry eye, and especially if you are experiencing eye pain as a symptom, it is important to see an eye doctor. They will be able to determine the cause of your dry eye, and from there suggest optimal treatment options for you.
Eye pain can be a symptom of dry eye, and it usually indicates a more severe case of dry eye and may be an indication of damage to the eye. If you are experiencing eye pain of any kind, it is vital to see a doctor.