Headache Behind Eyes

headacheThere are numerous causes that can lead to headaches behind eyes. Most common one is a tension headache followed up with a migraine and cluster headaches. It can be also due to an eye injury or nerve damage. It can be a serious condition if not treated after reappearing. They can have a character of stabbing, moderate and strong pain versus mild one which has a dull manner. Here is the list of the most common causes of a headache behind eyes.


The National Headache Foundation roughly estimated around 28 millions of Americans that suffer from a migraine. It is a headache usually occurring on one side of the head accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, pain behind one eye or ear, spots or flashing light events. It is more common in women. It has a throbbing character which can last for hours or days. Some migraines have an aura before the attack announcing the headache. It can occur a few minutes or hours before an actual headache. It can be in a way of sensing different taste, smell, flashlights, tingling sensation in the arm or leg, etc. There is also the type of a migraine without prediction signs which is more common one with an incidence of about 80%. Some people suffer from severe pain that can last for a long time which requires medical attention. They can feel better after applying solution infusion. It is advised to rest and avoid any provoking senses. Medication which can be used are some over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, other pain relievers, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications, and botox.

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache is a type of a headache which reappears from time to time. One can have a few episodes in one day which can last from a few days to a few weeks (cluster period). People who have this kind of headaches get them around the same time every year. They usually don’t last as much as migraine headaches, and can go into remission with a latency period of several years. It is unilateral pain that can occur behind the eye with a stabbing or burning sensation that can last approximately 30 to 90 minutes. A doctor can prescribe some preventive medications such as lithium, verapamil, ergotamine. Drugs that help with the attacks are Imitrex and other triptans, oxygen application, lidocaine, ergotamine. Some people undergo a surgery which involves blockage of the trigeminal nerve.

Dry Eyes

If you suffer from overly dry eyes, you may have a headache behind the eyes. Some people lack the function of the lacrimal gland resulting in reduced amount of tears. It is common in people who spend too much time in front of the computer or other screens like television or tablets. People who have chronic eye dryness problems usually have artificial tears within reach so they drop every now and then to prevent the rush of tears afterwards and irritation of the eyes in an attempt to protect itself from dryness.

Orbital Inflammatory Syndrome

It is non-infective inflammatory syndrome affecting the orbit. The exact cause is still unknown. It tends to be unilateral and more common in women at the age of adults. The pain can be triggered by the eyeball movement from side to side and with touching the orbital area. Treatment is usually rest with some over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.


Sinuses are the areas filled with air in the upper front part of the skull. They can get blocked with germs, fluid and cause infection. When the lining of the sinus area occurs, it results in pressure on the specific area, nasal stuffiness and discharge associated with a cough, fever, fatigue. Treatment depends on the severity of the case and the duration of the condition. Acute sinusitis is treated with  decongestants and in some cases antibiotics for 10-14 days. Chronic sinusitis can be treated with antibiotics and corticosteroids to calm the inflammation. Saline water and inhaling steam from boiling water can help.


The eye has a protective layer on top which is called sclera. It can get irritated and result in redness and pain in the eyes. It can affect front or the posterior side of the eye, resulting in pain in that area. It is believed that the main cause is an immune system which directs T lymphocytes to the eye. It can be linked with rheumatoid arthritis, Wegener’s disease or other autoimmune diseases. Other than irritation, it can result in an excessive function of lacrimal glands, double vision, photophobia, pain caused by eye movements. Drugs which are used in the treatment of scleritis are some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressive drugs and oral glucocorticoids.

Long Sightedness

This is a syndrome which reflects in eye inability to focus on the things that are closer. It is known as hyperopia and has to do with the eye refraction. It can be due to the lens, eyeball or cornea inbalance. If the cornea is not curved enough, the lens is not thick enough, the focus tends to fall behind the retina instead at the center. This causes blurry vision at the close object resulting in a headache if it stared for too long. A person can struggle with the attempt to focus leading to further muscle weakness and them being more prone to headaches.

Optic Neuritis

An optic nerve can get inflamed causing pain and headaches behind eyes. The actual cause doesn’t have to be specific. It can be the first sign of multiple sclerosis or a consequence of an immune system reaction or some infection. The symptoms that indicate to optic neuritis are vision loss which is only temporary, pain around the eyeball, dyschromatopsia which means Irregularity in sight to colors. Some cases can recover without any treatment. Others require interferon injections, methylprednisolone, and immunoglobulins.

Cranial Nerve Palsies

A palsy represents the lack of function of one of the twelve cranial nerves. It appears in the form of lack of function of the nerve, or if there are multiple fields of innervation, some additional function may lack too. It can be inherited, due to an injury or some disease such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, infection, tumor. The nerves participating in the eye muscles movements are 3rd, 4th, and 6th. They can produce double vision called diplopia. In addition, 3rd cranial nerve damage can result in ptosis (lowered eyelids) and mydriasis (occurrence of dilated pupils). Some cases can recover without treatment while others may need prism glasses, surgery, occlusion therapy or botox.

Dealing With Headache Behind Eyes

  • Tension headaches can be managed with some manual therapy. Use your thumb to make pressure on the base of the skull, gently laying on a hard surface, breathing deeply. This can help with pain reduction.
  • Some treatments like acupuncture and massage can help with cluster headaches.
  • Over-the-counter medication can help with the anti-inflammation process. For those who have chronic headaches, they should seek for medical attention to discover the main cause.
  • You should avoid tobacco and alcohol. If you have tension headaches, avoid high sodium food. Avoid frozen food which can contain high levels of nitrates. Contraceptive pills can also cause headaches.
  • If the headaches start to worsen and stop you from doing your everyday tasks, you should advise with your doctor about the therapy and prescription drugs in order to get better and to treat the root of the problem.


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