Sharp or sudden pain in the eye is usually due to debris in or around the eye. It’s commonly described as an aching, stabbing, or burning feeling within the eye itself.

Sharp pain can also be caused by more serious conditions such as uveitis or glaucoma. Read on to learn more about possible causes, treatments, and when to get help.

Pain in the eye can be caused by any number of conditions or irritants. If you’re suffering from sharp eye pain that doesn’t go away after rinsing your eye with a saline eyewash solution, you should get an examination from your eye doctor.

Debris in eye

One of the most common causes of sharp pain in the eye is debris. This occurs when something — like dust, dirt, or other foreign substances — gets into the eye, causing irritation and pain.

If you believe you have something in your eye, you should try to flush it out with saline solution or water.

If you’re still feeling severe pain, you should contact your eye doctor, an optometrist, or an ophthalmologist. You may have a scratch on your eye (a corneal abrasion), which will need medical assessment.

If there’s a sharp object that’s still sticking out of your eye, don’t remove it. Get medical help immediately.

Cluster headaches

A cluster headache can affect the functionality of your eye. It typically affects one side of the head and can last 15 minutes to 3 hours. Symptoms can include:

Treatment usually involves medicine to treat or prevent the headache. Preventing cluster headaches usually involves keeping a headache diary to diagnose your triggers and patterns.

Contact lens problems

If you’re wearing contact lens, your eye pain may be due to a problem with your contacts. If your vision is blurry along with the pain, your contact lens may have shifted or become folded in your eye.

If you can see your contact lens in the mirror, you should wash your hands and attempt to remove it.

If you can’t see it, you should flush your eye with saline solution and continue to roll your eye around until the contact lens shifts to an accessible place on the surface of your eye.


Uveitis is a group of inflammatory diseases that affect the part of the eye called the uvea. The uvea is the middle layer of the eye, which includes the iris, ciliary body, and choroid (most of the blood vessels). Uveitis is usually caused by:

  • autoimmune malfunction
  • eye trauma
  • toxins introduced to the eye
  • tumors or infections

Uveitis is diagnosed by an eye exam and followed by treatment, which is typically prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Your doctor might prescribe medication such as:

  • eye drops with an anti-inflammatory medication
  • corticosteroid pill or injection
  • antibiotics or antiviral medication


Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve of the eye. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that there are about 60.5 million people who suffer from glaucoma globally.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is categorized as a medical emergency — it can result in blindness within a few days. If you’re experiencing the following symptoms, you need to contact a doctor immediately.

  • severe eye pain
  • visual disturbance
  • blurry vision
  • vomiting

A glaucoma check should be part of your annual eye doctor visit too, especially if you’re over the age of 35. Early detection is key to protecting your vision from glaucoma-related damage.

Your eye pain is typically very treatable!

If your head hurts along with your eye injury, you may be experiencing a migraine or cluster headache.

If your eye pain doesn’t go away after you’ve rinsed your eye, you may be experiencing a more serious condition.

If the symptoms don’t subside after a few hours, consider seeking medical attention.