The feeling of eye pain, pain behind the eye when blinking, or the eye feeling bruised when you blink can have a few different causes. Some are more common than others.
Why Does My Eye Feel Bruised When I Blink: Common Causes
Lets first take a look at the common causes for an eye to feel bruised when blinking. This can also cause a sensation of having pain behind eye when blinking. It is usually from eye irritation on the surface of your eye.
The most common for eye pain when you blink is a corneal abrasion or conjunctivitis. A common cause for feeling like the eye is bruised could be a condition called GPC. GPC stands for giant papillary conjunctivitis and can be associated with contact lens use. Dry eye disease is also a common cause of eye pain when blinking but usually patients will have a history of having dry eye.
A corneal abrasion, which is a scratch on the eye’s surface, is one of the most common causes of eye pain. It can cause eye pain when blinking as well as a bruised feeling when blinking. Typically, corneal abrasions will have some pain even when not blinking. But, blinking will usually cause more severe pain.
Corneal abrasions can be caused by rubbing the eye, eye injury, wearing poorly fitting contact lenses, sleeping in contact lenses, or having something fly into the eye. If the abrasion is large, it can even cause severe eye pain.
In addition to feeling eye pain when blinking, patients with corneal abrasions will also have watery eyes and light sensitivity. This may make it difficult for them to keep the affected eye open. If the abrasion is in the center of the cornea, patients may also have blurry vision.
It is very important to see an eye doctor if a corneal abrasion is suspected, as treatment may be necessary to prevent complications. The standard treatment is using antibiotic eye drops. It’s important to note that these antibiotics are not for treating an infection. They are rather for preventing an infection that could lead to a corneal ulcer.
Viral Conjunctivitis / Bacterial Conjunctivitis / Pink Eye
Conjunctivitis is often referred to as pink eye. Close contact with someone who has pink eye is one of the most common ways patients get pink eye.
The eye hurts from inflammation in the conjunctival tissue. Since this tissue lines the eyelids, when your eyelids open and close over the surface of the eye during blinking, it can make eye pain worse.
With pink eye you should notice that you have red eyes. Sometimes the eye discomfort and eye pain may precede having red eyes. The eye sockets may also feel sore. If a bacterial infection is suspected, then your eye doctor will put you on antibiotic eye drops.
Viral conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, needs to run its course. This means that using antibiotic prescription medications will not be helpful and these eye drops can not treat the virus that causes pink eye. The viral infection may take around 2 weeks to resolve. Patients can use artificial tears for relief.
Allergic Conjunctivitis / Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis
Allergic conjunctivitis is different than what eye doctors refer to as pink eye. Allergic conjunctivitis is usually a result of seasonal allergies or an allergy to contact lens use. The changes in the ocular tissues are somewhat similar in that there is inflammation of the conjunctiva, but the cause is different.
Giant papillary conjunctivitis or GPC can happen in contact lens wearers. Sometimes the changes may be so intense that a patient’s contact lens may ride up each time they blink. Patients may get the sensation that they have a foreign object or a foreign body in the eye. This may also cause the eye to feel sore. In this eye condition, patients may need to change the brand of contact lens that they are wearing to resolve the allergic reaction.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Painful blinking is also a common symptom of dry eye syndrome. Especially in patients where they have eye pain in the morning or their eyes hurt when they wake up, dry eye should be suspected. In addition to feeling that their eyes are dry, patients may also complain of a gritty sensation or watery eyes.
Patients with dry eyes may have watery eyes which seems counterintuitive. This is because when the eye is dry, it sends a signal back to the brain tell the brain to make more tears. The brain responds appropriately and starts asking the gland to make more tears. Treating dry eye syndrome with eye drops can help to resolve eye pain and eye soreness. If this doesn’t work, you can talk to your eye doctor about many of the new therapies for dry eye treatment.
Stye / Blepharitis
Blepharitis is a very common problem for many patients. It is often associated with seborrheic dermatitis and having dandruff. Untreated blepharitis can result in blurred vision, symptoms of dry eye and the development of a stye.
A stye is a small, painful lump on the eyelid, often caused by an infection of one of the oil glands. Having a stye is one of the most common causes of pain and discomfort. You may be able to feel the bump with your finger or see it in the mirror.
Styes can cause discomfort during blinking, as the eyelid movement may irritate the affected area. The treatment plan for blepharitis and styes includes warm compresses, and good eyelid hygiene. Blepharitis can also contribute to dry eye by affectiong tear production.
Medical intervention may be required if a stye does not improve or worsens. Usually this means having the stye surgically removed or using IPL laser to help open the glands in the eyelids.
Contact Lens Stuck In Eye
A contact lens getting stuck in the eye can cause eye pain. This pain can get worse when blinking especially if the contact lens is trapped beneath the eyelid. It is important to have your eye doctor check for a stuck contact lens. If the lens remains in the eye for too long it can lead to a corneal abrasion and in some cases an infection of the cornea itself.
You can look for the lens in the corner of the eye and also attempt to flip the eyelid to see under it. Most patients will find this difficult to do on their own so they will likely need to see a doctor who can help.
Eyelash Stuck In Eye
Getting an eyelash stuck in the eye or underneath the eyelid is pretty common. If the eye pain gets worse when you blink or if you have painful eyelids, it’s worth checking in the mirror to see if there is an eyelash on the surface of the eye. In most cases, an eyelash on the surface of the eye will not cause an abrasion. In rare cases if its there long enough it can.
If you do see an eyelash on the surface of the eye or under an eyelid, then you should try to gently remove it. Once you remove it the pain should resolve within minutes to hours. If it does not, this could mean that there is something else going on. If you are unable to get the eyelash out yourself you should see an eye doctor who can help.
Why Does My Eye Feel Bruised When I Blink: Uncommon Causes
Below are some of the less common causes of eye feeling bruised, sore of painful during blinking. They are uncommon because the disease mentioned below do not happen often in the population overall.
A corneal ulcer is a pretty serious medical condition. It is often caused by failing to properly treat a corneal abrasion or from contact lens misuse. Luckily corneal ulcers are not very common. If you are someone who sleeps or swims in your contact lenses then a corneal ulcer is more likely. If you suspect that you have a corneal ulcer, you should see an eye specialist immediately.
If left untreated a corneal ulcer can not only cause vision changes, but it can also cause vision loss. Sometimes patients can be in minor pain and sometimes they can be in severe pain. In some patients you may even be able to see a white spot on the surface of the eye. However, in many patients the ulcer may be so small that only an eye doctor will be able to see it using a microscope.
Uveitis / Eye Inflammation
Uveitis, specifically anterior uveitis, can also be a cause of your eye pain. However, usually this eye pain is not made worse by blinking because the inflammation is inside the eye, not on the surface. The eye pain with uveitis is usually made worse by bright lights.
Uveitis is more common in patients who have an autoimmune disease. Some of the autoimmune conditions associated with uveitis are Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease, Lupus, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
This disease is more likely to have pain with eye movement rather than pain with blinking. Pain with blinking most likely indicates an issue with the surface of the eye not the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for transmission of visual information from the eyeball to the brain.
In optic neuritis, patients will have blurry vision and may also have a pupil abnormality. Optic neuritis is not a common condition in the general population but it is a common condition in patients who have multiple sclerosis. Optic neuritis can cause temporary vision loss as well as permanent vision loss. Patients may also feel that colors appear more faded when viewed by the affected eye.
If you start experiencing eye pain, especially during eye movement, it is very important to seek immediate medical attention. If you can not see an eye doctor right away, you should go to the emergency room. Patients may need to have an imaging study done to see if the optic nerve is inflamed. Typically, doctors will order an MRI to view inflammation of the optic nerve.
Severe Eye Injuries
Acute trauma and severe eye injuries can cause eye pain when blinking, but these are again, not as common. Additionally, most patients will know if they have recently suffered from an eye injury like blunt trauma, chemical burns, or any other kind of obvious injury. In the case of an eye injury, it is important to see an eye doctor as soon as possible. An eye exam with an expert ophthalmologist can help to determine if your eye health is stable. Especially if your eye injury is associated with vision problems, seek immediate medical attention.
Tear Duct Infection
A tear duct infection can cause the eye to be sore or painful, but it should not be made worse with blinking. This medical condition is also known as dacryocystitis.
Dacryocystitis is an infection and inflammation of the tear sac (lacrimal sac) which leads to the tear duct (nasolacrimal duct) causing a partial or complete obstruction in the tear drainage system. Tears are made by a small organ above the eye under the upper lid and drain from each eye through small canals, a tear sac, and a tear duct. Symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, tearing, and discharge.
Orbital cellulitis is a very serious medical condition and requires immediate medical help. Orbital cellulitis will present with remarkable eyelid swelling and it may even be difficult to open the eye. In some cases there can also be intense pain and double vision. Orbital cellulitis usually requires admission to the hospital. While orbital cellulitis can have pain with blinking it’s not very characteristic of the disease.
Eye Pain & Feeling Eye Is Bruised While Blinking: Summary
Feeling like your eye is bruised or hurting when you blink can happen for common reasons related to irritation on the eye’s surface. One main cause is when the eye’s surface gets scratched, known as a corneal abrasion. This scratch makes blinking very uncomfortable and painful. Scratches can occur if you rub your eye too hard, get hurt in the eye, or wear contact lenses that don’t fit well.
Another reason is conjunctivitis, often called pink eye. This occurs when the tissue covering your eyelids is inflamed, and when you blink, it can make the pain worse. Allergies or using contact lenses might also cause allergic conjunctivitis, while dry eye syndrome, which leads to morning pain and a sandy feeling in your eyes, is another cause. In addition, blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelids, and styes, painful lumps due to infected eyelid glands, can make blinking uncomfortable.
Sometimes, having an eyelash stuck in your eye can also cause pain when blinking. Usually, you can remove the eyelash gently to feel better. But if the discomfort continues or gets worse, it’s a good idea to see an eye doctor for proper help and treatment.
Uncommon and unlikely reasons for eye pain while blinking are a corneal ulcer, uveitis, preseptal cellulitis, orbital cellulitis and dacryocystitis. In all cases, it is a good idea to have an eye doctor evaluate the cause of your eye pain so you can get the best treatment that is tailored to your specific eye problems.