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Headache Behind Eyes

Understanding The Causes And Symptoms Of Headache Behind Eyes

Are you suffering from recurrent bouts of headaches behind your eyes and worried about your eyesight becoming weak? Despite having blurry vision and watery eyes, there are chances that there may be absolutely nothing wrong with your baby blues. If not, then what is the reason behind the headache that is keeping you up at night and preventing you from concentrating on your work?

What Is A Headache Behind The Eye?

Experiencing a headache behind the eye doesn’t necessarily mean that you may have a problem with your eyesight. Sometimes, a headache behind the eyes is brought in by many different causes of headaches such as migraines and various triggers such as stress, noise, and lights.

Causes of Headache Behind Eyes

There are different types of headaches that may account for the pressure and pain behind your eyes which include:

Migraines

Half of your head is throbbing in pain. You are feeling nauseous and extremely sensitive to flashing lights and loud noises. You prefer to sit in a dark room with earplugs in your ear, waiting for this episode to go away. But, this episode continues to haunt you for the next couple of days, causing you to wake up with pain behind your eye. But, it comes and goes on its own and you have no clue as to what causes them or what you could do to prevent them. 

Migraines are infamously known for eliciting one-sided pulsating headaches. But before the actual attack takes its final blow, you might experience an ‘aura’, which may not be present in everyone suffering from a migraine

An aura is a ‘warning sign’ that a migraine may be incoming: you may see halos or bright, flashing lights accompanied by a slight vision loss. You may also experience difficulty in speaking and a sensation of pins and needles going through your limbs. Once the migraine strikes, you may experience nausea and vomiting as well as increased sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and touch along with a throbbing headache around your eyes and the accompanying temple. The aura may last for 20 – 60 minutes whereas a migraine may last for 4 – 72 hours.  

Cluster Headache

Cluster headache, as the name suggests, occurs in ‘clusters’ or recurrent, cyclical episodes around one eye that appear consistently between attacks. A cluster period is one where the headache occurs every day for several days or even months, followed by a pain-free interval until the headache strikes again. 

During the cluster period, the headache occurs usually at the same time every day with similar attacks throughout the day. Cluster headaches usually occur in the night and may wake you up from your sleep, lasting around 15 minutes to 3 hours on average. Once the headache resolves on its own, you may either get subsequent attacks during the day or at the same time the next day.

Cluster headaches are accompanied by highly excruciating painful episodes around the eyes, typically one-sided. The eye may droop, and appear watery and red, accompanied by other signs and symptoms such as a red and flushed face, runny or congested nose, facial sweating, and restlessness.

Sinus Headache

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the facial sinuses usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Acute Sinusitis is characterized by a fever, stuffy nose, nasal discharge that is thick in consistency, and a reduced sense of smell. In addition, sinus headaches may also be accompanied by pressure and pain behind the eyes, upper teeth, cheeks and forehead which may worsen by leaning forward. 

Tension Headaches

Usually described as a ‘tight band’ across the forehead, tension headaches are the most common form of headaches which may either resolve in 20 minutes or a few hours. But, there are episodic and chronic tension headaches in which the dull, aching pain around the eyes may last for at least a week or more than two weeks, respectively. Tension headaches may also be accompanied by pain and tenderness in the shoulder muscles, neck, and scalp.

Eye Strain:

Too much screen time or continuous driving can cause eye discomfort and strain behind the eyes. Eye strain may prevent you from opening your eyes properly, with lights and digital devices being the main culprits and triggers of the headache. 

When is Headache Behind Eyes Triggered?

Many triggers such as sensory stimuli, lifestyle, and stress can pose as triggers for headaches. 

Migraines

Migraines can be triggered by certain dietary habits such as eating processed foods containing additives, salty food, chocolate, or alcohol, and poor lifestyle choices such as having a disturbed sleep-wake cycle. Stress, weather changes, hormonal imbalances, loud noises, and bright lights may also play a role in triggering a migraine attack.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches may be aggravated by smoking and alcohol, but food, stress, and hormonal changes have so far, not shown to elicit a triggering effect.

Sinus Headache

Unlike migraines, sinus headaches are not triggered by lights or sound and certainly do not present with nausea and vomiting. True sinusitis may actually never occur and is often masked with migraines and cluster headaches. 

Tension Headaches

Despite its high rate of occurrence, the causes behind tension headaches are still poorly understood and research is still underway. Stress, lethargy, fatigue, bright sunlight, dehydration, eye strain, and poor posture can trigger or aggravate tension headaches. Digital stimuli such as too much screen time can act as a potential trigger for tension headaches which can be felt behind the eyes.

How to Treat Headache Behind Eyes

Migraines

Migraines can be prevented and managed by both over-the-counter and prescription medications. OTC medications largely include painkillers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin, but caffeine has also been shown to alleviate migraines. However, taking too many painkillers can lead to dependency to such an extent that they would no longer work to relieve your headache and rather would cause worsening headaches.

Prescription medications include Triptans which are efficient during the attack but have shown to have no effect in preventing or curing migraines. Apart from drugs, migraines can largely be prevented by adopting certain lifestyle changes, such as adjusting your circadian rhythm, eating clean and healthy food, and limiting processed sugar.

Cluster Headache

Acute attacks of cluster headaches may be managed by lifestyle changes such as abstinence from alcohol and medications such as steroids, triptans, and lidocaine nasal spray for relieving pain. 

Sinus Headache

As a sinus headache may be due to a viral or bacterial cause, there are medications as well as home remedies that may help cope with the sinus infection. Your general practitioner may prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is suspected. On the other hand, nasal decongestants as well as nebulization or steam may help to alleviate a stuffy, congested nose. 

Tension Headaches

Resting the eyes by taking a break from activities that cause eye strain can help alleviate the discomfort, especially if the tension headache is brought in by too much screen time. However, if your job requirement is as such, you can adjust your posture as well as use devices for preventing glare and reflection on the screen.

Other home remedies include resting as much as possible till the headache behind the eyes resolves on its own. Meditation, yoga, and listening to mellow music may also help in releasing stress and combatting tension headaches. 

The Final Verdict

While there are home remedies and medications that may help you deal with headaches behind the eyes, it is ideal to analyze the triggers behind them. By assessing the triggers causing a headache behind the eyes, your general practitioner can advise you on ways to prevent headaches, especially if your quality of life is being affected primarily. 

Disclaimer
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 04/11/2023

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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