Major Causes of Headache Behind Eye

A headache is an exhibition of pain occurring in the neck or head. Headaches are generally classified into four categories depending on the causative agent. They can be vascular, inflammatory, traction or muscular. At times, headaches are felt behind one or both eyes.

The pain is usually felt throughout the head but it is more concentrated at one point. Different locations of the headache point at different symptoms. People are advised to pay extra attention to headaches, as self medication by buying off the counter drugs could work in suppressing the pain, while the real underlying problem grows bigger.

In some cases, one can discover that the headache behind eye was a symptom of something bigger, such as a tumor, so, it is best to seek medical advice from a certified physician.

Major types of headache behind eye and its causes

Headaches can occur behind the right eye, behind the left eye, behind both eyes and behind the right eye and the temple. The location of the pain is majorly dependent on the causative factor.

According to medical professionals, there are at least one hundred and fifty types of headaches that one could suffer from. However, people tend to suffer from the most common types of headaches, which include but are not limited to the ones listed below.

Tension headaches

They happen to be the most common types of headaches and they are felt behind the eyes.

  • Causative factors

It is not quite clear what causes these types of headaches but studies show that negative lifestyle habits could be a major cause. Such habits include dehydration, lack of adequate sleep, leading a stressful life, a diet that lacks the right amount of nutrients, and other habits that deprive the body of its requirements. Fatigue or injuries are closely linked to this type of pain. People experiencing this type of headache feel that there is a pulling sensation in their heads. The pain is central behind the eyes and the patient feels as if his or her head is being pulled to that focal point.

This kind of headache can last anywhere from a few minutes to several days. The pain is not sufficient to prevent one from carrying out daily activities but it is quite uncomfortable.

  • Treatment

 ice packs for headache

Off the counter pain killers, such as paracetamol are known to cure this headache. A change of lifestyle, such as getting adequate sleep and eating right, also contribute heavily to curing such a headache. Using ice packs on the area can be helpful if the pain was caused by an injury.

Migraine headaches

These headaches are often felt behind the left eye or both eyes. Though these headaches are not as common as the tension headaches, they are more severe in terms of the pain experienced. They can keep one from conducting their usual activities as they are accompanied by a lot of pain and pressure in the head such that one is unable to concentrate on anything else but the pain. These kinds of headaches can affect an individual for days or months. Children are also at the risk of suffering from migraines.

  • Causes

The causes of this kind of headache are not clear but studies have come up with some triggers which include changes in hormones, lack of sleep, partaking in certain kinds of food, as well as living a stressful life. It is often thought that these headaches are caused by a change in the blood flow to the brain.

  • How do these headaches manifest themselves?

The patient often suffers from light sensitivity in one or both eyes, nausea, that could be accompanied by vomiting, confusion, as a result of the pressure, sensitivity to noise, lack of appetite, an upset stomach and a constant pain that takes place in the front and the sides of the head. Some migraines, such as the ocular migraines, can cause loss of vision or intermittent vision, where the individual sees flashes.

  • How are migraines treated?

massages for headeache behind eye

Medication, such as Aleve, is given to the patient who is advised to rest in a quiet dark room to avoid further disturbances that could aggravate the problem. Having a regular sleep schedule is advised. Given that these types of headaches behind the eyes have been linked to a change in blood sugar levels, the patient is advised to have a regular meal time. Other treatments include the use of ice packs, massages and taking of caffeine.

Cluster headaches

These headaches occur either behind the left eye or the right eye and the pain is not transferred to the other eye. They are among the least common types of headaches but they are very severe. The pain is so much that people suffering from this kind of headache behind the eye are unable to sit still or do anything until the pain has passed. These headaches take place in groups such that one can experience them from one to three times per day. This can go on for days, months or years. These kinds of headaches behind the eyes can go away only for them to come back after a certain period, like a year.

  • Causes

The cause has not been established but trigger factors have been discovered, such as taking of alcoholic drinks during a cluster period. Unlike tension and migraine headaches, which have been linked to the body’s well-being, cluster headaches have not. Some people are more at risk of getting these headaches, such as people with a family history of cluster headaches, as well as men.

  • Symptoms

The symptoms of these headaches exhibit themselves as pain behind one eye that can spread to other body parts like the neck, restlessness, watery eyes, redness around the eye, sweating, drooping eyelids and a runny nose.

  • How are these headaches behind one eye treated?

Supplemental oxygen to treat headeache behind eye

Pain medications as well as plenty of rest are recommended for anyone going through cluster periods. Most off the counter drugs are not effective, as they are not strong enough to deal with the pain and one suffering from this kind of pain should seek help from a medical professional to get a stronger pain medication. Supplemental oxygen can be used, as these headaches are accompanied by stuffy noses and constricted blood vessels.


This headache is felt behind the left eye and it is an inflammatory kind of headache.

  • What causes this headache behind the left eye?

This type of pain comes about when the sinuses in one’s head get inflamed. It could be due to an infection in the sinuses or an allergic reaction, which causes the tissues in the sinuses to become swollen and congested leading to pain.

  • How does this headache exhibit itself?

The pain is usually felt in the cheekbones, the bridge of the nose and forehead. Other symptoms include pressure around the eyes, a runny nose, sensitivity to light,  fever. The face of the patient could also swell.

  • Treatment for sinusitis

nasal spray to treat headeache behind eye

The pressure can be reduced by use of a nasal spray and, in the case of an infection, antibiotics are given to the patient.


This headache is felt behind both eyes and it has become more prevalent now that people spend a lot of time staring at electronic screens, such as smart phones and monitors. This headache has been associated with tension headaches.

  • What causes eyestrain?

This type of headache behind the eyes has been linked to lack of adequate blinking while people are watching television or using other types of electronic screens. Straining of the muscles that move the eyeballs can also cause this kind of problem. It is more likely to affect people with refractive disorders in their eyes suffering from astigmatism, farsightedness, nearsightedness or those who do not wear their prescription glasses as directed by their physicians.

  • What are the symptoms associated with eyestrain?

Apart from the pain behind the eyes, the patient also suffers from blurry vision, redness of the eye, tearing, tired eyes and dry eyes.

  • Treatment

Patients are advised to take pain medication, get enough rest, take breaks in between staring at electronic screens and wear the right prescription glasses.

Dry eyes

This is a common condition that is experienced when the tears in one’s eyes do not provide adequate moisture. The affected person suffers from shooting pains behind the eyes.

  • What are the causative factors?

Dry eyes are often an indication that one’s tear flow system is out of balance or there are things surrounding one that are responsible for drying out the tear film, such as an air conditioner. Other causes include aging, using certain drugs, some diseases and problems that affect the closing of eyelids.

Watching TV or using laptops for long are also associated with these headache behind the eyes.

  • Symptoms of dry eyes

The patient experiences a headache behind the eyes, sensitivity to light, redness, a blurry vision, discomfort, burning and itching. At times, the eyes react by tearing heavily in order to curb the irritation caused by the dryness.

  • Treatment

 artificial eye drops to treat headeache behind eye

This problem is treated through the use of artificial eye drops and ointments which increase the moisture in the eye. Eating a diet rich in omega 3 is also quite helpful.

Orbital cellulitis

This is a headache that is felt behind the left eye. It is caused by an infection of the eye associated with the eyelids. This condition is related to sinus infections and it mostly affects children. It is a serious condition that could lead to loss of vision if not treated early.

  • Causes

This kind of infection is brought about by bacterial infection through the sinuses or an eyelid infection.

  • Symptoms

The patient suffers from headache behind the left eye, which is accompanied by the swelling of the eye tissues, bulging of the eye as well as difficulty in moving the eye.

  • How is it treated?

To deal with this kind of problem, doctors use antibiotic therapy and surgical procedures.

Orbital inflammatory syndrome

This is an inflammatory type of headache which occurs when the tissues around the orbit become inflamed. The headache takes place behind the left eye. This type of headache is very painful as it puts a lot of pressure on the orbit as well as the cavity of the brain.

  • What causes this syndrome?

The direct cause has not been established yet. Doctors use CT scans as well as blood tests to check for infections.

  • What are the symptoms associated with this disease?

The patient suffers from great discomfort when moving his or her eyes. There is also a lot of pain associated with touching the affected eye.

  • Treatment

Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to reduce and treat the inflammation.


Changes in hormones are associated with the development of headaches behind eyes, especially in women during menstruation and menopause. Taking of contraceptive pills can also alter the level of hormones in the body, leading to headaches. People suffering from headaches associated with hormones are advised to have a balanced diet and to get adequate sleep as well as staying away from stressful situations.

Optic neuropathy

This is a medical condition that causes headaches behind the eye and it occurs when there is damage to the optical nerve. This condition is so serious that if left untreated, it can lead to loss of vision.

  • Common causes of this disease

This condition can present itself when one has been exposed to toxic substances, has a poor diet, has a family history of this condition or has infections and neurological diseases. It can also be brought about by a sinus infection.

  • Symptoms

It causes a lot of pain behind the eyes, blurry vision and numbness.

  • Treatment

This condition is treated through the use of steroids.

Other diseases that could lead to headaches behind the eyes include:  long sightedness, astigmatism, scleritis, cranial nerve palsies, head injury, glaucoma, tumor, aneurysm and brain infection.

Headaches behind the eyes can be caused be hereditary factors, infections or negative lifestyle activities. When one suffers from a headache behind the eye, one should seek immediate medical attention as the situation could be life threatening or could lead to loss of vision. Most of the headaches can be prevented through leading a healthy life by eating a balanced diet, sleeping well, limiting exposure of the eyes to electronic screens, avoiding the use of drugs, regular physical exercises and other types of activities geared towards a healthy life. Our eyes are the windows to our souls and we should do all that we can to keep them healthy.

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