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Eye pain can be the result of various conditions, but it is mostly triggered by superficial factors such as irritants, infection, and injury. The most common causes overall are corneal abrasion and foreign bodies. (1)
The affected eye may develop symptoms such as swelling, redness, fluid discharge, and blurred vision, as well as a scratching, stinging, or itching sensation on the surface of the affected eye or sometimes dryness in the eyes.
The intensity and type of pain can vary depending on the underlying cause and its severity. Some people experience sharp and throbbing pain, while others experience a dull and stabbing one.
Fortunately, mild to moderate eye pain can generally be managed at home with a few easy tips and remedies.
How to Manage Eye Pain at Home
The following tips and remedies can help you get rid of eye pain.
1. Limit your screen time and blink frequently
Excessive use of computers, LCD television, iPads, and smartphones render your eyes dry, heavy, and tired. It is said that these electronic devices release blue light, which can strain and even damage the retina, but there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim.
However, staring at LED screens for extensive periods can make you blink less or incompletely, which contributes to dry eye syndrome. (2)
Your eyes contain certain glands that secrete tears and lipids to keep the corneal surface properly lubricated. Blinking helps spread out these fluids all over the cornea and keeps them from evaporating.
However, if you don’t blink frequently and fully such that the upper eyelid fails to shut completely, then the tear film will evaporate rather quickly, leaving your eyes dry and uncomfortable. (3)
What to do:
Observe the 20-20-20 screen rule
If you spend too much time in front of a computer, TV, or phone, take regular screen breaks to rest your eyes. The 20-20-20 screen rule can help prevent undue eye strain or damage.
- Avert your eyes from the screen after every 20 minutes.
- Fix your gaze at a point about 20 feet away.
- Relax and look at the point for about 20 seconds while blinking more frequently to hydrate the eyes.
Practice strong, mindful, full blinks in your free time to inculcate this habit. (4)
- Close your eyes for 2 seconds.
- Open them.
- Close your eyes again and wait for 2 seconds.
- Tightly squeeze your eyelids together for 2 seconds.
- Open your eyes again.
- Do this every 20 minutes, 20 times a day.
2. Apply a warm compress
Eye infections such as conjunctivitis trigger inflammation in the area, which manifests in the form of swelling, redness, and pain.
A warm compress is one of the simplest and safest ways to get quick relief from this kind of eye irritation as well as eye pain in general, and it is mostly effective if the irritation and pain are accompanied by dryness in the eye. (5)
The application of gentle heat stimulates blood circulation in and around the eye, which helps bring down inflammation and pain. Plus, the increased blood supply delivers more nutrients and white blood cells at the site to help fight the infection responsible for these symptoms.
What to do:
- Soak a clean, soft towel or washcloth in comfortably warm water. Wring out the excess water.
- Close the affected eye and place the damp, warm cloth on it for a minute or two. If both eyes are affected, use separate towels on each of them to prevent spreading the germs from one eye to the other.
- Do this a few times daily until the pain goes away completely.
3. Wash your eyes with eyebright
Eyebright (euphrasia) is a therapeutic herb that has proven quite effective in relieving eye infections and irritation.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a single dose of euphrasia eye drops could successfully treat various conjunctival conditions. (6)
What to do:
- Mix 1 teaspoon of eyebright herb in a cup of water and boil it for about 10 minutes.
- Let the solution cool down and then strain it using a clean cheesecloth.
- Gently and carefully wash your eyes with this liquid every day until your condition improves.
Note: This herbal solution is not fit for storage and must be prepared fresh every day.
4. Cleanse your eyes with a saline solution
Using a warm saline solution to clean your eyes can help get rid of infection (7) as well as the symptomatic discomfort associated with it. In fact, this remedy is routinely recommended for treating irritated, inflamed, and itchy eyes.
Salt works as a natural anti-inflammatory agent that soothes the pain, swelling, and redness in the eyes. Meanwhile, its antimicrobial properties help kill the germs, making the infection go away faster.
Moreover, the topical heat improves blood circulation in the area, decreasing inflammation and increasing the influx of infection-fighting white blood cells.
Note: Isotonic saline solution was found ineffective in the emergency treatment of severe alkali eye burns in lab cases, (8) so be cautious.
What to do:
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water.
- Bring this solution to a boil and then take it off the heat.
- Once it cools down, use this solution to rinse your eyes twice a day.
5. Try artificial tears
Artificial tears come in the form of lubricating eye drops that are easily available in most local pharmacies without a prescription. If your eyes feel hard, heavy, and painful due to dryness, artificial tears can moisten their surface to relieve the discomfort.
Getting something in your eye can also cause a lot of pain and redness. These eye drops can help flush out any foreign body or irritant from your eye without causing irritation. (9)
It is safe to use these eye drops as many times as you need during the day, provided they don’t contain any preservatives. However, if the eye drop does contain preservatives, limit its use to four times a day.
Since eye pain can stem from many different causes, a doctor can help you determine which brand of artificial tears will work best for your particular condition.
6. Use rose water
The cool refreshing nature of rose water can help relax your tired eyes. It has anti-inflammatory effects that reduce pain, soreness, stinging, and redness in the eyes caused by an infection or irritant.
Additionally, it is credited with significant antiseptic properties that can prevent and eliminate different types of eye infections.
A 2010 study published in Ophthalmology and Eye Diseases showed that the use of rose water as an eye drop can effectively relieve as well as treat conjunctivitis, all thanks to its antiseptic and analgesic properties. (10)
Moreover, you can safely use this soothing liquid inside your eyes to flush out pollutants, germs, and debris.
What to do:
- Dip two cotton swabs in rose water, and place them over your closed eyes for at least 15 minutes.
- Put 2–3 drops of rose water into your eyes.
7. Use colloidal silver
Colloidal silver is a liquid that contains microscopic silver particles in a water base. This ingredient is quite effective in clearing highly contagious eye infections that usually cause a lot of pain and irritation. (11)
Colloidal silver has an electromagnetic pull that binds the infected cells from the eye and transfers them into the bloodstream to be eliminated.
The fact that colloidal silver is found in most commercial eye drops points to its safety and effectiveness in this regard.
What to do:
- Pour 2 drops of colloidal silver into each eye, and then blink a few times to spread it all over.
- Do this twice a day until the infection subsides.
Prevention for Eye Pain
- Don’t wear contact lenses regularly or for long durations as they can dry out and damage your corneas, resulting in eye pain. Let your eyes rest and recover by wearing glasses.
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water, especially before touching your eyes and after touching someone with an eye infection or their personal belongings.
- Try not to touch or rub your eyes as much as you can to prevent them from getting infected or irritated. This is particularly important if you already have an eye infection because you can end up spreading the germs to the other eye. Similarly, rubbing an already painful eye can exacerbate the irritation.
- Keep eye makeup, eye drops, contact lenses and their container, towels, bedding, and eyeglasses for personal use only.
- Use separate eye products for infected and noninfected eyes.
- Regularly clean your contact lenses as well as their container according to your doctor’s instructions. Store them properly but replace them after the stipulated expiry date.
- If you live in an arid environment, the lack of humidity in the air can dry out your eyes and make them hurt. Install a humidifier in your home, which can add moisture to the dry air and thereby keep your eyes lubricated and comfortable.
- Too much exposure to direct sunlight can make the tear film evaporate from the eyes, causing dryness and pain. Thus, wear sunglasses when going out during the peak hours of the day, that is, 11 AM to 4 PM.
- Consume a well-balanced, nutritious diet that contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which lubricate your eyes from within and promote eye health in general. Fish and flaxseeds are some of the best dietary sources of omega-3. If you fail to get enough omega-3 through foods alone, consult your doctor about taking a supplement.
- Limit your alcohol intake and give up smoking altogether as both these irritants can contribute to dry eyes and macular degeneration.
If your eye pain persists for more than a week despite proper care and treatment at home, go to an eye doctor immediately for a thorough checkup.
Once the root cause is diagnosed, the doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment for your particular condition.