December 27, 2023

Everyone experiences headaches occasionally, but having pain behind your eyes can disrupt your life badly. Often or every day, experiencing this condition might indicate something more severe. See medical advice if you need to change your routine because of your headaches. Your healthcare provider will help you to consider the problem and prescribe treatment based on your symptoms, triggers, and pain locations.

What is Pain Behind the Eyes?

A headache behind the eye is a pain that feels like it is coming from behind the eye region. It can be throbbing like a pulse or not throbbing. The area of pain may not indicate the cause of the discomfort.

Headaches behind the eyes are associated with many health problems, such as eye strain, tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus problems. To manage headaches effectively, it’s essential to determine the causes so you can effectively treat them.

When you are stressed or tense, headache symptoms can occur. A few of them may go away with an over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller, but other conditions, like migraines, may become too severe to continue your daily activities. Sudden issues like these are a sign of a more severe disorder, so you should seek help from your eye care doctor.

Causes of Headaches Behind the Eyes

Some of the most common causes of headaches behind the eyes are:

1- Migraine

Migraine can cause severe pain in the head and usually begins with pain around your eye and temple. Migraines can stem from various factors such as stress, anxiety, inadequate sleep, and hormonal changes. Environmental elements like smoky air, weather shifts, and barometric pressure changes can also contribute.

Some causes of migraines are linked to lifestyle and dietary factors, such as smoking and drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. Nutritional triggers include preservative-laden foods, including MSG and nitrates, and dehydration is identified as a potential migraine inducer.

2- Eye Strain

Prolonged use of digital devices or engaging in close-up work can result in a sensation of headache behind the eyes, commonly known as digital eye strain or computer eye strain. This issue arises from extended periods of staring at a computer screen or performing detailed tasks. Insufficient lighting and a lack of physical movement can further contribute to the development of this condition.

It is not a serious issue and usually can go away when you let rest your eyes.

3- Tension Headaches

Tension headache is the most common type of headache, often caused by excessive tension, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, poor posture, driving long distances, or staring too long at a computer screen. They may also associated with dehydration and skipping meals.

They usually cause pain behind both of the eyes, including a sensation of pressure on the forehead. They may last between 20 minutes to several hours.

4- Sinus Conditions

Pain behind the eyes could result from inflammation or congestion in the sinuses. The pressure generated by sinusitis may be felt behind one or both eyes. Allergies or viral infections within the sinuses are common causes of sinusitis. It can cause pain around your eyes, nose, forehead, cheeks, and upper teeth. Furthermore, sinus pain may be triggered by dental surgery or nasal polyps.

5- Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are rare and cause severe eye pain, often occurring in one eye. It usually comes in a group, such as one to eight short-painful episodes in a day. The exact cause of cluster headaches is still not known, but they happen more commonly in men than women.

Triggers of Headache Behind the Eyes

Headaches do not always fit into a single category, and you might encounter pain behind your eye due to various factors, including:

  • Eye strain
  • Undiagnosed nearsightedness
  • Scleritis
  • Optic neuritis
  • Graves’ disease
  • Glaucoma

Additionally, pain behind the eyes can be triggered by:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Hunger
  • Alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Strong smells
  • Bright lights
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Illness or infection

Treatments for Headache Behind the Eyes

Knowing how to avoid your triggers can prevent headaches or make them less painful. If a headache does occur, various treatment options are available.

OTC Medicines for Headache Behind the Eye

For occasional headaches, over-the-counter pain relievers can provide relief. They may also help with migraines if taken promptly. Healthcare professionals commonly suggest acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. It’s crucial to bear in mind that frequent use of these medications can lead to overuse headaches.

If you experience frequent tension headaches, your doctor may prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms. Antidepressants like amitriptyline have proven effective for many people.

For migraines, prescription drugs, such as triptans (almotriptan, eletriptan, rizatriptan, sumatriptan, and zolmitriptan), are often necessary for pain relief. When taken early, these medications typically bring relief within 2 hours. People with chronic migraines may take daily doses of medications like beta-blockers or antidepressants to reduce the frequency of episodes.

Cluster headaches may be relieved by breathing pure oxygen or using injected triptans like sumatriptan and lidocaine nose drops. Medications such as verapamil (Calan, Verelan) or prednisone are sometimes taken preventatively.

For sinus headaches, addressing the underlying infection is crucial. Your doctor may recommend antibiotics and decongestants to provide relief.

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