Call Us: 703.273.2398

All Articles

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.”


Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia


Currently, I see patients with retinal diseases; macular degeneration, retinal detachment, macular holes, macular pucker within several different's a different arrangement, but it allows more continuous care with many eye specialists. In addition, I am very accessible via the web. To schedule your own appointment, call any of the numbers below.

Virginia Lasik | Office of Anh Nguyen, M.D.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Layla

A: 431 Park Avenue, Suite 103 • Falls Church, Virginia 22046
Ph: 703.534. 4393
View Map

Dressler Ophthalmology Associates, PLC
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Ashley (Surgery/Web)
Chrissy Megargee (Web)

A: 3930 Pender Drive, Suite 10 • Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Ph: 703.273.2398
F: 703.273.0239
View Map