Clinical review: The differential diagnosis of pain in the quiet eye

Paul W. Brazis, Andrew G. Lee, Michael Stewart, David Capobianco

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND - Eye pain, periorbital and retro-orbital pain, and headache or facial pain referred to the orbital region are common presenting complaints. REVIEW SUMMARY - In this review, we discuss the etiologies of eye pain in the quiet eye, which is defined clinically as one with a clear cornea without redness or irritation of the conjunctiva or sclera. CONCLUSIONS - The causes of eye pain may be divided into two groups: (1) those associated with abnormal localizing ophthalmologic and neuro-ophthalmologic findings (including trigeminal neuropathies); and (2) those with a normal ophthalmologic and neurologic examinations. The latter group is further divided into the following subgroups: (1) specific short-lasting or long-lasting headache or eye pain syndromes; (2) pain referred to the eye from other pathologic processes (secondary eye pain) sometimes distant from structures concerned with vision; and (3) pain from orbital, superior orbital fissure, cavernous sinus, or intracranial infiltrative, neoplastic, or inflammatory disease processes with normal ophthalmologic and neuro-ophthalmologic exam. Unfortunately, in some patients, no etiology for the pain syndrome is discerned and one is left with a diagnosis of idiopathic eye pain, eye strain, or atypical facial pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-100
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Cavernous sinus
  • Eye pain
  • Headache
  • Optic neuropathy
  • Orbit
  • Superior orbital fissure
  • Trigeminal neuropathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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