Causes of a headache behind the eyes
A headache behind the eyes is an uncomfortable sensation that is felt around or on the back of the eye, which may or may not be a throbbing ache. A headache may occur due to a primary cause or as a secondary cause due to an illness or injury.
A headache behind the eyes may be caused by multiple reasons. Common reasons include
- Tension headaches: They are the most common type of headaches usually lasting for several days. They are experienced as mild aches either on both sides of the head or as a band behind the eyes. Tension headaches appear after continuous and close focus on an activity and worsen as the day progresses.
- Migraines: Throbbing pain from a migraine headache almost always includes pain behind the eyes. Migraines can cause pain around the eyes and temple area, spreading behind the eyes to the back of the head. They are often associated with nausea, weakness and mood changes.
- Cluster headaches: They occur in cycles, often for several days or weeks and then disappear for months. They cause severe one-sided headaches with extreme pain behind or around one eye, occurring more frequently in men than in women. Patients often have a droopy eyelid, red watery eye and stuffy runny nose on the affected side.
- Sinus headaches: They appear most often during allergy flare-ups. Sinusitis or sinus inflammation causes pressure and pain behind the eyes and tenderness in front of the face. Symptoms are similar to those of migraines and cluster headaches, misleading people.
- Occipital neuralgia: It is a headache that begins in the upper neck or back of the head, moving behind the eyes and across the scalp with bursts of pain. This type of headache often affects people prone to migraines and is a result of an irritation or injury of the occipital nerves.
- Brain aneurysm: Pain is intense. This occurs when an artery wall in the brain becomes weak resulting in hemorrhage or a stroke.
- Angle-closure glaucoma: It can cause nausea and a severe headache behind the eyes. Glaucoma is an eye disease affecting the optic nerves causing peripheral vision loss, blurred vision, halos around lights and difficulty in adapting to darkness.
- Graves' disease: It is an autoimmune eye disorder associated with thyroid gland abnormalities. It can cause a headache behind the eyes and is characterized by bulging eyes, eyelid retraction, limited eye mobility, double vision or vision loss and red or pink eyes.
- Scleritis (inflammation of the sclera): Stabbing pain behind the eyes is caused by an inflammation of the sclera, the outer coating of the eyeball. Scleritis is commonly caused by autoimmune disorders (an allergic response to the body’s own protein), and the symptoms include a headache behind the eyes, red or pink eyes, tearing and blurred vision and light sensitivity.
- Dry eyes: A condition where the eyes are unable to produce sufficient tears to moisten the eyes causing sensitivity to light, which leads to pain behind the eyes.
- Vision problems: People with vision problems such as farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism are more prone to develop pain behind the eyes due to compromised vision.
- Eye strain: It is caused by straining to read/see in poor lighting, reading without giving rest to the eyes, using outdated prescription for glasses/contact lenses, driving long distances and exposure to glare. It leads to a headache behind the eyes.
- Poor posture: Muscle strain and poor posture in adults can lead to misalignments in the soft tissues and over time this weakens the surrounding area, causing frequent headaches behind the eyes.
What is the treatment of headaches behind the eyes?
Medication: Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications are used to temporarily relieve pain.
Other effective treatments to prevent and treat headaches include
- Resting in a dark room
- Avoiding headache triggers
- Using ice packs
- Placing a warm compress over the eyes
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating regular meals
- Avoiding long gaps in between meals
- Avoiding processed foods
- Getting regular sleep
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding smoking/tobacco
- Avoiding or limiting caffeine intake
- Maintaining proper posture
- Drinking adequate water
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing
- Getting regular eye exams and obtaining corrective lenses or glasses
If a headache is recurrent or worsens or if any of the symptoms are out of ordinary, people should seek medical attention.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Ophthalmology
National Headache Foundation
Top What Are the Causes of a Headache Behind the Eyes Related Articles
Brain aneurysm (cerebral aneurysm) is caused by microscopic damage to artery walls, infections of the artery walls, tumors, trauma, drug abuse. Symptoms include headache, numbness of the face, dilated pupils, changes in vision, the "worst headache of your life," or a painful stiff neck. Immediate treatment for a brain aneurysm is crucial for patient survival.
Dry Eye QuizWhat causes dry eye? Take this quiz to learn about dry eye syndrome and what can be done about it.
What Are Eye Floaters?Eye floaters are deposits or condensation that forms in the eye's vitreous humor. These deposits cast shadows on the retina, and as the eye moves, the deposits shift position, making it appear as though the shadows are moving or floating.
Eye StrainEye strain is a symptom caused by looking at something for a long time. Symptoms and signs include redness, light sensitivity, headaches, and blurred vision. Symptoms may be treated by closing the eyes and taking a break from the visual task.
GlaucomaGlaucoma is a common eye condition in which the fluid pressure inside the eye rises because of slowed fluid drainage from the eye. If untreated, glaucoma may damage the optic nerve and other parts of the eye, causing the loss of vision or even blindness.
What Is Glaucoma? Symptoms, Treatment, DefinitionGlaucoma refers to a variety of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, resulting in vision loss and sometimes total blindness. Learn how eye pressure contributes to angle-closure glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, and other types. Find out how eye fluid drainage can interfere with intraocular pressure and get treatment and medication information, plus lifestyle tips for managing glaucoma.
Headaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
Migraine TriggersDo you have frequent headaches? Learn the most common headache triggers for tension headaches, sinus headaches, cluster headaches and migraine. They include red wine, skipping meals, and smoke. Find medical treatments that work, like diet, exercise, massage, and physical therapy.
Headache Home RemediesHeadaches are a common complaint for many people. There are many types of headaches such as migraine, tension, cluster, and the general run of the mill headache. These 17 natural home remedies -- for example, exercise, meditation, hydration, yoga, caffeine, essential oils such as lavender and butterbur, herbs, and supplements like magnesium -- can soothe and relieve some headaches.
Headaches QuizIf you're plagued with headaches, our Headaches Quiz may help you identify causes, triggers, symptoms, and treatments for headache pain caused by different types of headaches such as migraines, sinus, cluster, tension, or stress.
Migraine HeadacheMigraine headache is a type of headache associated with a sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, eye pain, severe pounding on one side of the head, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The exact cause of migraine headaches is not known. Triggers for migraine headaches include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, strong stimuli (loud noises), and oversleeping. Treatment guidelines for migraines include medicine, pain management, diet changes, avoiding foods that trigger migraines, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and exercising regularly. Prevention of migraine triggers include getting regular exercise, drinking water daily, reducing stress, and avoiding trigger foods.
Migraine HeadachesIs it a headache or a migraine? Learn what a migraine is, causes, symptoms, treatments, and at-home remedies.
Migraine HacksA migraine can be more than just a whopping headache. Try these self-care tips for relief before and after it hits.
Migraine or Tension Headache? Symptoms, Triggers, TreatmentsWhat does a migraine headache feel like compared to a tension headache? Learn to spot migraine symptoms early, how to identify your triggers, and get more information on migraine headache medications and treatments. Learn to tell migraine from other types of headaches.
ScleritisScleritis is inflammation of the white part of the eye. It may be caused by a serious underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include redness, pain, tearing, sensitivity to light, and decreased visual acuity. Treatment may include eyedrops as well as treatment for any underlying disease process. Scleritis cannot be prevented.
Sinus Headache Pain, Symptoms, Treatments, Remedies, and CuresSinus headache is caused by a sinus infection or inflammation of the sinus cavities. Symptoms of a sinus headache include pain, runny or stuffy nose, and chronic cough. There are many causes of sinus headaches including sinusitis or sinus infection, allergies, smoke, infections, or colds. Treatment for sinus headache depends on the cause. Some home remedies may relieve sinus headache pain symptoms.
What Causes Headaches at the Back of the Head?Headaches in the back of the head can have a number of different causes; it might only be due to a minor injury or it can be a secondary symptom of other problems in the body. The type and location of the pain can play a crucial role in diagnosing the cause of headaches.