Sore eyes are an unpleasant sensation in or around one or both eyes. Your eyes may feel gritty, tender or tired. Sore eyes may be caused by excessive rubbing of the eyes. Airborne irritants, including smoke and smog, as well as other environmental factors, such as exposure to chemicals or even too much sun, can result in sore eyes. Inadequate lubrication of the eye surface by tears, which is frequently called dry eye, is a very common cause of sore eyes.
You may get sore eyes from prolonged close work such as reading or concentrating on a computer screen. An incorrect prescription for eyewear contributes to eye fatigue leading to soreness. Prolonged contact lens wear also causes sore eyes.
Inflammation caused by allergies or infections frequently leads to sore eyes. These conditions may affect only the eyes or they may be systemic (affecting other areas of the body), such as hay fever or the common cold. A frequent cause of eye soreness is conjunctivitis, sometimes called pink eye, which is an inflammation of the membrane that lines your eyelids and covers the whites of the eye.
You may have several other symptoms along with sore eyes, including eye pain, redness, itchiness, swelling, tearing, or discharge from the eyes. Sore eyes without eye pain is a common complaint that usually resolves on its own with rest. Sore eyes accompanied by eye pain and other symptoms, including fever, discharge, redness, sudden vision changes, or eyelids that are red and swollen, should be evaluated by your health care provider. Depending on the underlying cause, your health care provider may advise the use of artificial tears, antihistamines, antibiotics, or simply rest.
In most cases, sore eyes are not serious.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have sore eyes together with eye pain, fever, discharge, redness, sudden vision changes, or eyelids that are red and swollen.
Seek prompt medical care if your symptoms of sore eyes are persistent or cause you concern.