Sore Eyes Causes, Other Symptoms and Remedies

We all experience sore eyes every now and then and it is usually not serious. Most of us consider eye pain and visual disturbances to be more serious symptoms but sometimes even mild soreness can be an early symptoms of serious eye conditions. Therefore it is important to identify the cause of eye soreness and remedy it where possible before it progresses to a more serious condition.

What does sore eyes mean?

Soreness is broad term to describe discomfort, aching and even mild pain. Sore eyes may refer to a number of different conditions from eye strain and eye fatigue to bruising in and around the eye.  It is not common for most people to experience sore eyes for short periods, be it due to long hours of looking at a computer screen or rubbing the eyes vigorously.

However, repeated or persistent soreness of the eyes should always be investigated especially when there is no obvious cause of the eye irritation. While in many cases sore eyes are not a cause for concern and will resolve with a short period of rest, at other times it can be accompanied by a host of other symptoms due to some serious underlying medical reason.

eye strain

Other Symptoms

Sore eyes is a symptom and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including:

  • Watery eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Grittiness.
  • Visual disturbances.
  • Itching.
  • Discharges other than tears, like pus.

Causes of Sore Eyes

There are a number of different causes of sore eyes. Most of the time it is related to overuse and environmental conditions and is not usually severe. However, sore eyes can at times be the first symptom that arises with more serious eye disorders that need prompt medical treatment to prevent complications like loss of vision.


Eyestrain should be considered among the more common causes of sore eyes. With modern life often leading to long periods of TV watching as well as computer and mobile device, it is not uncommon for eyestrain to occur on a daily basis. Even long hours of reading and poor lighting can also cause eyestrain. It is usually not serious although it can cause short term visual disturbances and eye problems.

Dry Eyes

Another common condition of sore eyes, dryness can be due to a host of causes from eyestrain, environmental factors, dehydration and autoimmune diseases. Dry eyes is often ignored unless it is very severe, although it can be easily remedied with repeated blinking and OTC eye drops. One of the common reasons for dry eyes is infrequent blinking associated with prolonged eye use, like staring at a computer or TV screen.

eye drops

Contact Lens and Eyeglasses

Contact lenses, whether for corrective or cosmetic purposes, can irritate the eye if it is poorly fitting, used for long periods of damaged. Long term contact lens use also increases the risk of infections like conjunctivitis and keratitis especially without proper care. Eyeglasses to correct common vision problems like nearsightedness can also strain the eyes if the prescription is incorrect.

Vigorous Eye Rubbing

Rubbing the eye is a common way that many of us try to ease irritation. However, it can actually be the cause of the soreness and even worsen sore eyes that may have started for other reasons. It also depends on how frequent and vigorous the eye rubbing is as the occasional episode of gentle eye rubbing is not usually a problems.

Trauma to the Eye

Injury to the eye can be mechanical, chemical or electromagnetic. Mechanical trauma may vary from a blow to the eye, vigorous rubbing or poorly fitting contact lens that injury the eye surface. Chemical injury may occur when toxic substances make contact with the eye surface. Electromagnetic trauma is more likely to be seen with exposure to bright sunlight, tanning booth or the light produced by arc welders.


Blepharitis is a condition where the eyelids are inflamed. It can occur for a number of reasons, ranging from allergies and infections to a blow to the eye, excessive eye rubbing and skin diseases. Blockage of the tiny oil glands on the eyelids can also lead to inflammation as well as infestation with parasites like lice and mites. The conjunctiva continues from the eyeball on to the inner part of the eyelid so blepharitis may be associated with conjunctivitis.


Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the outer transparent lining of the eyeball. It is a common acute eye problem known as pink eye that more often arises with a viral infection. However, there are many other causes of conjunctivitis including mechanical and chemical trauma, allergies and electromagnetic radiation. Sometimes the cornea may also be involved and collectively it is referred to as keratoconjunctivitis.


Sore eyes is a common symptom with the common cold. This is caused by rhinoviruses and is mainly an upper respiratory tract infection. It is usually acute with the most intense symptoms lasting for 2 to 3 days. Most colds do not progress to any complications and the eye soreness resolves after a few days even without treatment.

Other Causes

  • Keratitis
  • Uveitis
  • Iritis
  • Glaucoma
  • Orbital cellulitis

Remedies for Eye Soreness

When sore eyes is not due to any serious medical conditions, simple lifestyle remedies can help. It should not be applied if there is any open wound in and around the eye or eyelid, as well as if there is any pus or blood discharge.

  • Blink more frequently, especially when using a computer screen. This may require a sign to be placed near the screen as a reminder to blink.
  • Apply the 20/20/20 rule to reduce eyestrain. For every 20 minutes of computer use, look away at an object about 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more.
  • Use eye drops to moisturize the eyes on a frequent basis when dry eyes is a problem. Some drops can act like artificial tears and may be a better choice for severe dry eyes.
  • Cold compresses on the eyelid can be helpful to reduce soreness and inflammation. Never apply ice. A cold pack or even a slice of chilled cucumber can be sooting.
  • Always use the correct eye wear. UV protected lenses is important for regular outdoor activity in bright sunlight. Prescription glasses should always be updated on a frequent basis.

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