Your Retina Feels No Pain

Retinal disease is painless.  Diabetic retinopathy doesn’t hurt and neither does macular degeneration.  For that matter, a retinal detachment is nothing.  What does cause eye pain?  It can be sinus disease.

There are only a handful of problems that cause eye pain.  Neither diabetic retinopathy nor macular degeneration causes eye pain, not even a feeling.

Corneal abrasions, like skinning your knee, causes is lot of pain and sensitivity to light.  The cornea is a has a lot of nerve endings.  Scraping across the superficial layer of the cornea exposes a lot of these nerve endings causing severe pain.  It may be one of the more painful conditions you can experience. There should be obvious redness of the eye.

Nerve endings in the cornea are important.  How else could you tell if you are poking yourself in the eye?

Certain types of glaucoma can cause pain, but only the ones that cause really high eye pressure.  Most types of glaucoma don’t hurt and are painless.

Normal pressure is somewhere between 18 and 21 mmHG, but severe pain usually doesn’t happen until the pressure is greater that 40 mmHG.  The only way you’d know your eye pressure is too high is to have your eye doctor test it.  Many times redness is associated with this type of pain.

While proliferative diabetic retinopathy can cause neovascular glaucoma, leading to extremely high pressure and pain, the retinopathy itself is painless.

Iritis, also know as uveitis, is a type of inflammation that occurs inside the eye.  It is not unlike a painful arthritic joint, but only it’s the eye.  The ciliary body, a very sensitive tissue inside the eye, can become very painful with certain type of intraocular inflammation.  Eye redness is common.

Sinus Disease causes many cases of eye pain.  Really.  The nerve fibers that transmit pain from the sinuses and the eye actually course together as they wind their way to the brain to alert you of discomfort.  Because the pain fibers run so close, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish “eye pain” from “sinus pain.”

Many times I am able to distinguish between the two by a very simple observation.  In my opinion, if the eyeball itself is not red, “eye pain” is probably not coming from the eye.

Please remember, this article represents my opinion and does not, in any way, substitute for medical advice.  If you are experiencing eye pain, please inform your doctor.

What Does This Mean? It’s pretty straightforward; the retina has NO nerve endings, thus, retinal disease, including diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration don’t hurt because…it can’t.  You can’t even feel a retinal tear or retinal detachment.

Many times patients relate loss of vision to pain or a certain “feeling.”

“Randy”

Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

Comments

  1. Margaret del Castillo says:

    Friday Nov. 6/09 black floaters in my left eye, Retinal Specialist would see me Thursday diagnosed a retinal hole. He did Argon Laser Power 02 93 burns. Kept going back to the doctor until the retina detached Nov. 25th doctor did Scleral Buckle surgery . Visions was good, follow up appt. on Dec. 1. Doctor did Argon Laser power 05 150 bursts The last burst was so painful I screamed, After vision very poor, told it should be better in 3 months, didn’t get better 3 /17th had a a Fluorescein, it showed a macular pucker, need surgeryI said no. A month later I saw another Retinal specialist, he could do a Vitrectomybut it was not an emergency. Had exam for glasses Dec 22nd. examination showed a new Retinal hole. He made an appointment with original Doctor Jan 5th. I’m scared.

  2. Dear Margaret,

    It sounds like a complicated year for you!

    I, too, would be concerned about so many tears. Fortunately they are being treated without your retina re-detaching. The macular pucker can occur after a PVD, retinal tear or retinal detachment.

    I wish you the best. If your retina is stable and remains attached, then everything else is secondary.

    All the best for the New Year!

    Randy

  3. Christina Cashell says:

    Hello
    I am being observed closely for a potential detachment of the retina. At this point, I am experiencing floaters and streaks of light which are lessening. My question is, could these problems have been brought about by sinus surgery? I had sinus surgery 4 weeks ago with a rare complication of cerebral spinal fluid leakage which resolved quickly. Initially, I had this surgery 6 years ago for polyps with a quick recovery. With this second surgery, I am 4 weeks post-op and I still don’t feel well. What do you think? Thankyou. Sincerely, Christina

  4. Dear Christina,

    There is no way, in my opinion, that sinus disease had anything to do with the retinal detachment.

    Randy

  5. Could a shoulder injury, that also hurt the thoracic muscle cause pain in the eye? When this person gets her shoulder massaged, her eye pain lessens.

  6. Dear Rod,

    Couldn’t even guess how this might work or occur.

    There aren’t any anatomic reasons why this would be therapeutic.

    r

  7. Hi, My brother had a “torn retina” and had laser treatment four days after his initial symptoms. He said the laser procedure hurt alot when they were lasering (3 times at the outpatient visit). From what you said here, I don’t know what caused his pain during the procedure. Any information would be helpfu. Thank you.
    Sara

  8. Sara,

    The retina itself has no nerve endings. There are a few sensitive areas in the peripheral retina where tears occur, that can sometimes hurt, but these nerve endings are typically near the rectus muscles, but it’s not unusual.

    r

  9. Jennifer says:

    My daughter was diagnosed with Morning Glory Disc Anomily. We took her in for her yearly checkup and noticed her retina was detached, we have scheduled surgery for her, however, since we found out her retina is detaching she has been complaining that the inside of her eye is hurting her. What are some of the possible reasons that she is having the pain. She describes the pain as alot of pressure on her eye.

  10. Jennifer,

    The retinal detachment is not causing pain…no nerves there. By now, you may have some answers?

    Randy

    Randall V. Wong, M.D.
    Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
    Fairfax, Virginia
    http://www.TotalRetina.com
    http://www.RetinaEyeDoctor.com

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 19.Your Retina Feels No Pain – Eye Diseases of the Retina Feb 17, 2010 … There are only a handful of problems that cause eye pain. … Scraping across the superficial layer of the cornea exposes a lot of these nerve endings causing severe pain. It may be one of the more painful conditions you can experience. … In my opinion, if the eyeball itself is not red, “eye pain” is probably … http://www.retinaeyedoctor.com/2010/02/macular-degeneration-and-diabetic-retinopathy-are-painless/ [...]

  2. [...] 10.Your Retina Feels No Pain – Eye Diseases of the Retina Feb 17, 2010 … There are only a handful of problems that cause eye pain. … It may be one of the more painful conditions you can experience. … In my opinion, if the eyeball itself is not red, “eye pain” is probably not coming from the eye. http://www.retinaeyedoctor.com/2010/02/macular-degeneration-and-diabetic-retinopathy-are-painless/ [...]

  3. [...] 9.Your Retina Feels No Pain – Eye Diseases of the Retina Feb 17, 2010 … There are only a handful of problems that cause eye pain. … It may be one of the more painful conditions you can experience. … In my opinion, if the eyeball itself is not red, “eye pain” is probably not coming from the eye. http://www.retinaeyedoctor.com/2010/02/macular-degeneration-and-diabetic-retinopathy-are-painless/ [...]

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