The Most Common Causes of Eye Pain at 2 Tertiary Ophthalmology and Neurology Clinics

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Background:Eye pain is a common complaint, but no previous studies have determined the most common causes of this presenting symptom. Our objective was to determine the most common causes of eye pain in 2 ophthalmology and neurology departments at academic medical centers.Methods:This was a retrospective cross-sectional analysis and chart review at the departments of ophthalmology and neurology at the University Hospital Zurich (USZ), University of Zürich, Switzerland, and the University of Utah (UU), USA. Data were analyzed from January 2012 to December 2013. We included patients aged 18 years or older presenting with eye pain as a major complaint.Results:Two thousand six hundred three patient charts met inclusion criteria; 742 were included from USZ and 1,861 were included from UU. Of these, 2,407 had been seen in an ophthalmology clinic and 196 had been seen in a neurology clinic. Inflammatory eye disease (conjunctivitis, blepharitis, keratitis, uveitis, dry eye, chalazion, and scleritis) was the underlying cause of eye pain in 1,801 (69.1%) of all patients analyzed. Although only 71 (3%) of 2,407 patients had migraine diagnosed in an ophthalmology clinic as the cause of eye pain, migraine was the predominant cause of eye pain in the neurology clinics (100/196; 51%). Other causes of eye pain in the neurology clinics included optic neuritis (44 patients), trigeminal neuralgia, and other cranial nerve disorders (8 patients).Conclusions:Eye pain may be associated with a number of different causes, some benign and others sight- or life-threatening. Because patients with eye pain may present to either a neurology or an ophthalmology clinic and because the causes of eye pain may be primarily ophthalmic or neurologic, the diagnosis and management of these patients often requires collaboration and consultation between the 2 specialties.

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