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Why Do My Eyes Hurt When I Wake Up? 8 Causes and Treatment

If you are wondering why your eyes hurt when you wake up, it may be due to common eye conditions such as pink eye, dry eye and allergies. Waking up with eye pain can also be caused by an eye injury, angle-closure glaucoma, eye strain, recurrent epithelial erosion and eyelid inflammation. These conditions can range from mild to severe depending on the initial cause, so it is important to seek a professional examination from an optometrist if you experience any pain, irritation or changes to your vision after waking up. At Raie Eyewear, our qualified and knowledgeable optometrists can help diagnose a range of eye problems, including eye pain in the morning or upon waking.

How Common Is It For Eyes to Hurt When Waking Up?

Eye pain or your eyes hurting can be common due to eye problems such as pink eye, dry eyes and eye strain, which are all common and can occur suddenly. Eye pain upon waking can be normal, as the lacrimal gland does not produce as many tears when you are sleeping. The lacrimal gland secretes fluids that lubricate, clean and protect the eyes. Tears help to retain the eye's moisture, so with fewer tears, you may experience pain in your eyes when waking up.

Causes of Eye Pain When Waking Up

  1. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): An infection or inflammation that can cause pain, redness and tearing around the eye. You may first notice it when you wake up as fewer tears are produced during sleep, exacerbating symptoms.
  2. Dry Eyes: Insufficient tear production and poor tear quality can lead to eye pain, stinging, itchiness, a gritty sensation, redness and light sensitivity, especially upon waking when the eyes have been without moisture.
  3. Eye Allergies: Allergic responses to pollen, animal dander, etc. can trigger eye pain along with eyelid swelling, redness and tearing, commonly felt in the morning.
  4. Eye Injury: Injuries from blunt force, burns, irritation, corneal abrasion or foreign objects can induce mild to severe pain depending on the nature of the trauma. Seek medical attention for any eye injuries.
  5. Angle-Closure Glaucoma: A buildup of pressure in the eye due to blocked fluid can cause sudden, severe pain in one eye, headache, nausea and vomiting. This is a medical emergency requiring urgent care.
  6. Eye Strain: Overexertion of eye muscles from prolonged focus on tasks like computer use can lead to pain, tired, itchy or sore eyes felt upon waking.
  7. Recurrent Epithelial Erosion: This syndrome causes sharp pain and blurred vision when waking as corneal epithelial cells stick to the inside of the eyelid when the eye surface dries out. It warrants urgent medical care.
  8. Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis): Inflammation of the eyelids due to bacteria, dandruff or abnormal oil production can cause pain, burning, itching, tearing, discharge, redness and swelling.

Is Age a Factor in Morning Eye Pain?

Yes, age can increase the likelihood of developing eye conditions that induce pain, as the body's ability to generate sufficient, quality tears declines with age. Dry eyes are a common cause of morning eye pain in older patients.

Can Sleeping Position Cause Eye Pain?

No, incorrect sleeping position is not a likely direct cause of eye pain upon waking, as this is typically a symptom of an underlying eye problem or injury. However, poor sleep posture can lead to pain in the back, shoulders and neck.

Treatments for Eye Pain When Waking Up

  1. Artificial Tears: Increases eye moisture to alleviate pain from dry eyes. May take a few weeks to a month of use for effective treatment.
  2. Antibiotics: Treats eye infections causing pain and inflammation. Available as tablets or drops, with symptoms improving 3-4 days after starting treatment.
  3. Antihistamines: Relieves allergies that may cause eye pain and swelling. Taken as tablets or drops, usually taking effect within 30 minutes.
  4. Warm Compress: Improves blood flow to alleviate pain, regulates oil production and prevents blockages that cause dry eyes.

Preventing Morning Eye Pain

  • Maintain eye moisture by using artificial tears before bed to prevent overnight dryness.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing hands and avoiding touching/rubbing eyes to reduce infection risk.
  • Take allergy medication regularly to prevent swelling and pain.
  • Have regular eye tests for early detection and treatment of conditions that may trigger pain.

Eye drops can help prevent morning eye pain by addressing underlying conditions like dry eye, allergies, pink eye and eyelid inflammation.

Sleeping early may reduce eye pain by limiting extended eye strain from late night device use, a risk factor for fatigue and strain.

When to See a Doctor

Call a doctor for morning eye pain if the pain feels severe or unusual and is accompanied by fever, headache, vision changes, nausea or vomiting. Concerning eye pain occurs alongside other symptoms or persists.

At Raie Eyewear, we are here to help with any concerns about your eye health and comfort. Book an appointment with one of our skilled optometrists for a comprehensive eye exam and personalized treatment plan.