Sore Eyes

There are several different factors that can play into why you have sore eyes. Read on to see what may be causing it, how you can treat it, and much more.

Common terms used for Conjunctivitis are often “sore eyes” or Pink Eye. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the thin covering of the eyeball and inner eyelid. The inflammation is brought on by a viral, bacterial, or allergy infection. However, sore eyes are generally due to a viral infection.

Extremely contagious, it spreads easily by eye to hand to eye contact, a runny nose or cough, or when people come into contact with a contaminated surface or object. If severe enough or long lasting, it can eventually lead to corneal scarring that can cause glare and decreased vision. Experts recommend not going to work or school if you have sore eyes or symptoms of sore eyes until symptoms are relieved and treatment is successful.

Sore Eye Symptoms

There are many different symptoms you will encounter if you are suffering from sore eyes. Signs and symptoms generally peak within 3-4 days and last up to 14 days. These symptoms include:

Other signs and symptoms that are accompanied by the sore eyes include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Lymph glands are sore (lymph glands are your body’s defensive filter, they are located behind the ears)

Treatment for Sore Eyes

The best thing you can do for yourself and your condition if you are having any signs or symptoms of sore eyes is to seek medical attention. Contact your health care provider or an eye doctor for an exam of your eyes immediately. Catching the problem early and getting diagnosed can prevent further damage to you and others you come into contact with. Your eye doctor (Optometrist or Ophthalmologist) may prescribe you anti-inflammatory or antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Antiviral medications might also be in store. To relieve discomfort at home, you can try applying warm compresses to your eyes for 5-10 minutes three times a day.

Preventing Sore Eyes

There are numerous things you can do to prevent sore eyes from occurring. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water is a great start. Avoid touching your eyes and face when you haven’t washed your hands. Do not share towels, eyeglasses, sunglasses, or make-up/cosmetics, as this may only lead to transfer of an infection.

If you have had symptoms of sore eyes, and have been using any cosmetics, especially ones that are applied to your eyes or in the area of your eye, it’s best to discontinue and discard those products. Purchase new cosmetics and wait until the condition has been treated successfully before resuming use. Disinfect surfaces, especially common ones such as door knobs, counters, and other surfaces with diluted bleach solutions. Bleach is known to kill germs and prevent their spread.

Your doctor will probably mention this to you, but be careful that the tips of eye drops or ointments do not touch the eyes or eyelashes while using them. This goes for all types of eye drops and ointments, not just the one your doctor prescribes to you.

If you are not the one infected, but someone close is, make sure to disinfect and wash all surfaces, clothes, towels, pillow cases, and anything else that may have come into contact with that person to reduce the chance of transfer. If other symptoms are occurring besides the ones involving the eyes, it is best to stay away from others to prevent the spread of infection until the symptoms are relieved and treatment is successful.

  • J. DiGirolamo, MD “The Big Book of Family Eye Care” (Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2011) 121-122; 92-93
  • J. Anshel, MD “Smart Medicine for Your Eyes” (SquareOne Publishers, 2011) 141-142
This article was last updated on 07/2013