Carefree M.D. Blog

Why Do My Eyes Hurt When I Wake Up? [Causes and Treatments]

Carefree MD

July 14, 2021 | Blog

Even if you’re a morning person, feeling pain when you open your eyes first thing in the morning can definitely ruin your day. And it’s not an issue to take lightly either. Discover why your eyes hurt when you wake up, and what treatment options you have.

7 Reasons Why Your Eyes May Hurt When You Wake Up

While these are common reasons why your eyes can hurt in the morning, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all eye-related conditions. A medical professional, especially an optometrist, is the most qualified to diagnose and treat your condition.

However, if you’re curious, these 7 reasons are the most common causes for eye pain in the morning.

1. Dry Eye

The most common reason your eyes hurt when you wake up is that they’re dry. Dry eye is a condition that affects almost 5 million people in the United States.

If your eyes hurt when you wake up every day consistently, it’s very likely that your eyes dry out during the night. This happens because your eyes aren’t closed fully when you sleep, and you’re not producing enough tears to hydrate your eyes. 

Apart from pain and discomfort, your eyes may also be swollen, itchy, or bloodshot.

Dry eye treatments such as eye drops or prescription medication can alleviate the pain you feel in the morning. Alternatively, a minor in-office procedure that closes your tear drainage ducts permanently can also help.

2. Allergies

Whether you have seasonal allergies or the cat you love so much is flaring it up, allergies can definitely contribute to eye pain in the morning. Redness, swelling, and itchiness are common symptoms of allergies in the eye.

Taking antihistamines or prescription medication can significantly reduce your allergy symptoms.

3. Pink Eye

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an inflammation of the transparent membrane of your eye caused by infection. Redness, itching, and a gritty sensation are common symptoms of red eye. Apart from your eyes hurting when you wake up, you also find crusts on your eyelashes.

Usually, pink eye improves on its own. If it’s a bacterial infection, you may need antibiotics.

Please be aware that pink eye is highly contagious. Wash your hands immediately after touching your eye to help your loved ones avoid this discomfort. 

4. Blepharitis

If your eyes hurt when you wake up, it may not be a problem with your eye itself. The issue may be in your eyelid.

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, and it usually affects both eyes. Redness, itchiness, discomfort, and crusting are common symptoms.

Blepharitis is a chronic condition. Luckily, it’s not contagious, and it shouldn’t affect your eyesight. However, it does increase your risk of dry eye, cysts, and pink eye.

5. Angle Closure Glaucoma

If your eye never hurt before, and it suddenly does when you wake up, you may have angle closure glaucoma. This is a medical emergency, and should be treated immediately.

Angle closure glaucoma happens when your iris becomes bulged, and it blocks the drainage path of your cornea. This results in increased pressure in your eye thanks to insufficient fluid drainage.

Although acute angle closure glaucoma can happen suddenly, and should be treated as an emergency, if you have narrow drainage angles naturally, you may also develop this condition gradually.

With acute angle closure glaucoma, eye pain isn’t the only symptom you’ll feel. Severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and blurred vision will let you know that you need immediate medical attention.

6. Recurrent Epithelial Erosion

Recurrent epithelial erosion syndrome happens as a result of an eye injury to your cornea. If this injury doesn’t heal well, a blister may form on the wound. During sleep, the top of this blister can stick to your eyelid, and when you open your eyes in the morning, the blister tears open.

This is sometimes the reason why your eyes hurt when you wake up. Recurrent epithelial erosion syndrome can happen even months or years after your initial injury. And as the name suggests, it can be a recurring issue.

Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic drop to avoid infection, and a pupil-dilating drop to stop painful iris spasms. You can also take over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

The only way to really avoid this if you’re prone to recurrent epithelial erosion is regular use of eye drops and ointments.

7. Injury

A foreign object in your eye can cause significant pain. Anything that doesn’t belong in your eye, such as an eyelash or dust can cause injury. If you sleep with your eyes open and you get injured, you may experience pain when you wake up. 

Eye injuries should always be taken seriously, as they can affect your vision and cause further damage. Seek immediate medical attention if you can’t blink the object out. Removing significant foreign bodies from your eye yourself risks causing further injury.

Talk to a Doctor About Your Eye Pain

Is your eye pain a recurring problem in the morning? Or is it a new issue? Either way, talking to a doctor about it is important. After all, taking care of your eyesight is crucial. 

You can seek medical attention by going to the doctor, or you can talk to a board-certified physician straight from the comfort of your home with Carefree MD.

For $17.95/month, our doctors can diagnose your illness, create a treatment plan, and even prescribe medications when medically necessary and have them sent to your local pharmacy. 

Sign up today for a Carefree MD card, and get help for your morning eye pain! 


The Carefree MD blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed doctor or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

The Carefree MD Card is not insurance and Carefree MD is not an insurance provider.